What are the benefits? What difference does it make?
Long term and short term mission trips create an eye opening experience on the residents, as well as the students making the commitment to serve.
Tim Henderson, a missionary in Aruba for almost eight years, just moved back to the United States. Henderson grew up in the mission field with his family in Trinidad, but is originally from Searcy, Arkansas.
Henderson was the preacher at the Church of Christ in Aruba and had mission trips from Harding and Faulkner University come for various weeks at a time. The groups have been involved in activities such as holding a VBS, door knocking, church building projects, community outreach, and students have the opportunity to practice preaching for the congregation.
“I love when groups come because it encourages the local brethren and the surrounding neighborhoods,” Henderson said. “The students show the members that the church is more than just one room of people.”
Henderson said he could see the impact of the mission trips in the church well long after the groups had returned home. For example, teens were encouraged to come back each week and members found ways that they could get involved in church services.
Todd and Debbie Gentry have led multiple short term mission trips to Australia and St. Lucia over the last eight years.
The Gentry’s teams have held VBS day camps, mini carnivals, service projects, spent time with neglected children, distributed food, and visited juvenile detention centers.
“There is so much you can do on a short term mission trip,” said Debbie Gentry. “Even if all we did was encourage, it would be well worth it.”
Students gain the experience of doing various ministry tasks and using each of their unique, individual gifts to enrich the kingdom of God. Students also get the opportunity to shadow the mission leaders and learn from their experiences.
“I come back from a mission trip feeling a sense of embarrassment toward myself,” said Carter Burks, a student that has been on two Harding mission trips. “I feel like we see ourselves as higher than others in the Kingdom because of our physical blessings, but mission trips show me that I am such a small part of a bigger picture.”
Mission trips are another way to make relationships with Christians outside of your everyday realm. Bonds can be created with the elderly, adults and the children through teaching bible classes and playing with them.
Suzanna Richter, a student that has gone on two mission trips to Romania and Aruba, said she loves to see how God’s church is prevalent all over the world.
Richter said she enjoys making relationships with people that are millions of miles away, different age groups, and different cultures.