In my 41 years as a lifelong Adventist I had never gone on a mission trip until this past summer. It’s not that I’m opposed to serving humanity, but rather, I’ve always felt there are plenty of ways to serve right around you. However, my rookie experience on this trip taught me a few things only a project out of your comfort zone can.
1. Getting out of your comfort zone is key.
In the filthy, cramped abode we dwelled in (roaches, broken everything, etc.) with 26 people in a house made for five, no one bickered, got on each other’s nerves (at least outwardly), or went hungry or dehydrated. The biggest health concerns were a few headaches and some heat fatigue, which we easily overcame. We were also safe the entire time, and that was no small feat, given the neighborhood. It taught me that when God pulls you out of comfort, He doesn’t leave you comfortless.
2. He provides what you need.
I don’t do well in extreme heat/humidity. Yet this trip involved us building fences, pruning overgrown bamboo, painting, and using power tools in 97°F July Atlanta heat. But just when the sun was merciless, our foreman dragged fans outside for us, or some clouds showed up and gave us shade for a few minutes. And sometimes, out of nowhere, there was a breeze!
3. Close, cramped quarters can make you love your roommates—and that’s a miracle.
Everything wasn’t peachy at every moment, but I found myself growing attached to the kids and fellow chaperones in a way I hadn’t planned on. What easily could have become a situation where everyone was at each other’s throats became one where we were literally bathed in peace. It’s unexplainable, and I can chalk that up only to the Holy Spirit.
4. If you want to strengthen your marriage, serve together.
When presented with the opportunity, my husband felt called to lead the collegiate Sabbath School of our church. He believed God was calling us to it. I said I didn’t recall receiving that memo. Chaperoning the mission trip was part of that gig. God helped me with my attitude, turning me into a morning smoothie-making, construction-working sidekick to my husband. It helped us show the kids what marital teamwork could look like. In finding myself loving these kids, I foun d strength, which was a strength to him. And because of that, we both really believe God took our marriage to another level of blessings this summer. We’ve felt it.
5. Serving God angers Satan, but he never wins.
At the tail end of the trip, some difficult events unfolded and continued for weeks to follow. But God provided ways to work through them. God is still leading and because our personal peace was attacked, I am convinced we are on the right track.
It’s amazing how God gets our attention in multifaceted ways, layered in opportunities for learning, strength, protection, and love. So I need to do a better job of remembering that going forward. If He brings something to me, my answer needs to be “I’m here. You can send me. I know You have my back.”
Wilona Karimabadi is an assistant editor of Adventist Review and editor of KidsView.