This isn’t the first time I’ve gone on an international mission trip with students. In 2011 I was part of a team to Honduras that included seven of our high school students. I wasn’t leading that trip, but I definitely felt some responsibility for the students that we brought.
Our church has been working in Honduras for over 20 years, partnering with local pastors to plant hundreds of churches. The focus of our Honduras trips is construction: building an actual building so that a new local church has a place to meet.
I had a great time on that trip; it was so much fun working with students in an entirely new environment. It was also fun working with the adults, most of whom had never spent that much time with teenagers. Some of the adults were very confused by the behavior of the students, even though they were just being their normal, weird selves.
I will never forget that trip because of a flash flood, which created a river. Check out the video below.
We were on our way back to the hotel when we came upon a flooded riverbed. Thunderstorms had turned the dry riverbed into a flowing river. Cars were lined up on both sides waiting for the waters to recede. While the waters themselves were memorable, I’ll never forget the community that formed around the river.
In the video you could see a Good Samaritan using his four-wheel drive truck to tow cars back and forth through the river. In the image for this post you can see some of our team members pushing a car through the river because it had gotten stuck. I still remember seeing the car stuck and just running into the river in order to push it out. The water was up to our waists but, in that moment, we were all in it together.
I don’t know if we had a communal experience because we were in a different country or because we were all facing an obstacle; it was probably a little of both. Honduras is a more communal nation to begin with, but we had the added incentive of a common enemy. Even though we couldn’t speak the same language, we were all in that situation together.
One of my favorite parts about going on mission trips is seeing how people are all the same. We may come from different places and we may speak different languages, but we’re all still human, we’re all still created in the image of God. That day on the banks of the river we weren’t Hondurans and Americans, we were people who wanted to get where we were going; we were people who wanted to do what we could to help each other.
When we stop focusing on our differences, it’s a lot easier to see how we’re the same.
What’s your most memorable mission trip or international experience?