College Mission Trips - My Experience

I first began to think about college mission trips during the first semester of my Junior year. Although I'd grown up in a Pastor's home, I can't say I felt "called" to missions. Nonetheless, I'd always found the possibility of missions intriguing.

When the Lord changed my mind about minoring in Spanish, I began to wonder if He might want me working somewhere in missions.

But I don't believe that missions is like any other career choice. I believe God calls people to be missionaries, or maybe I should say that's the way it ought to be. So although I was interested in missions, I knew that I hadn't been called.

I had been exposed to missions and missionaries all my life. We usually had a missionary at church about once a month the whole time I was growing up. I was always fascinated by their presentations, but I'd never felt called to any specific field.

So it occurred to me that I'd probably need some personal experience with missions before I could truly decide if that was where God wanted me to serve.

Consequently all during my first semester of school, the idea of a college student mission trip was constantly on my mind.

I attended a fundamental Christian University in Greenville, South Carolina, and there were college age mission trips organized most summers that students could be involved in. I started asking around to see what college mission trips were planned for the coming summer.

Of course, since Spanish was my minor in school, I was interested in going on a trip to a Spanish speaking country. As it happened that year, the only team going to a Spanish speaking country and taking young women was going to Puerto Rico.

That is how I ended up on a college mission trip to Puerto Rico during the summer of 1978. Of course there is a lot more to the story than simply the location, but if I shared all those details here, there would be no room to tell you about the trip.

So if you'd like the details of the prelude to the trip please read about my first fund raising experience where I share all the details about how the Lord actually put me on that team, and provided the money I needed for the summer. I'll pick up this story after those events were already in the past.

What Have I Gotten Myself Into?

What Have I gotten Myself Into?

That was the question I asked myself, as I walked across campus one beautiful spring day shortly after all the money was in,

Now everyone knew I was truly going on this summer college mission trip!

I knew virtually nothing about Puerto Rico at that time. When I first started going to team meetings, I knew it was an island, but I really thought it was somewhere over around the Philippines in the Pacific.

By this time, I'd learned a little more, I did know it was in the Caribbean, not the Pacific, but the only other piece of information I really understood was that it was a tropical island.

My only experience with the tropics had been south Florida, and I HATED South Florida. Please understand, I don't hate it now, but I did then.

So my next thought was, "You'll probably go to Puerto Rico on this summer team, and the Lord will probably call you to go there as a missionary, and you'll have to go, because you know you can't fight with God." (I'd learned that lesson several years previously).

About that time I remembered Romans 8:28 "All things work together for good to them that love the Lord". I thought "Sherilyn, you're just being silly! If the Lord should call you to go to Puerto Rico as a missionary, that would be the best thing that could happen to you, so why worry about it. Besides, lots of people go on college mission trips and don't get called as missionaries."

And I put it out of my mind, and didn't think about it again for a long time.

College Mission Trips - An Overview and Memories

The trip to Puerto Rico was the first time I'd flown in my life. I remember the whole experience was information overload! It was so warm, everything was so green, and it was so different from south Florida!

I'm sure if I'd just gotten back from this trip you'd get a more detailed report, but that may be a blessing rather than a curse.

In writing this page I've realized it has been thirty-one years now since that trip. I'm sure many college mission trips have similar experiences...

We had written out our testimonies in Spanish and memorized them before leaving school. We had also learned several Spanish choruses to sing with the children. The trip I was on that summer lasted thirteen weeks, I believe. We traveled to around ten churches during that time.

If I remember correctly, we helped with:

  • Daily vacation Bible Schools in several churches
  • one or two weeks of summer camp in the mountains
  • several special services
  • teaching children the choruses we'd learned.

    I believe there were eight to ten of us on the team. That was probably an average size for college mission trips. Puerto Rico is a beautiful island.

    The team leader, Orlando Gonzalez had arranged to have us stay in the homes of believers in his home church in Levittown.

    We traveled around the island with young ladies from his home church who were also college and career age. I still remember their names, Iris, Tere, and Janet.

    Within a week or two of arriving in Puerto Rico, I realized I had a problem. One of my goals for the summer had been to improve my Spanish skills. But there were so many bilingual people on the island that I was afraid I would spend the thirteen weeks and learn nothing.

    So after about the first week, I made a vow to God that I wouldn't speak English to anyone who understood Spanish. Some people may make vows and then ignore or forget them. But when I make a vow to God, I take it seriously. Those who were with me on that team swear it was the only time in my life that I've been "quiet"!

    Seriously, I was very quiet that summer because it took me five minutes to say the simplest sentence, and usually four or five tries. Nonetheless, I did learn a tremendous amount of Spanish. Since I couldn't talk, I spent all my time listening.

    In fact, after that college mission trip, I never had another difficult Spanish class. I learned so much that every other class I've taken in Spanish since has been easy.

    Slide Show of College Mission Trips Experiences

    I can't guarantee that every picture in this show was actually taken in 1978. That was before the days of digital cameras, and most of the pictures weren't time and date stamped. Nonetheless, these pictures will give you a good idea of what the island was like at that time, and what we experienced on this college mission trip.

    Outcome and Consequences of College Missions Trips

    This is probably where you will hear the greatest variety of experiences from the participant in college mission trips.

    For me, by the time I left Puerto Rico, I desperately wanted to return. I fell in love with the island and its people.

    The church that had been our home base for the summer needed teachers for their Christian School, and I was studying to be a teacher. They wanted me to stay and teach, even though I hadn't graduated.

    I didn't seriously consider that, but I was seriously considering whether I should return to teach for them after graduation before I left the island that summer.

    My major concern was whether the Lord wanted me returning to Puerto Rico, or whether it was just what I wanted to do.

    I spent most of the first semester of my senior year of college wrestling with that question but I'll save the details and results of that struggle for another page.

    I believe college mission trips are a wonderful way to explore the possibility of missionary service.

    In my case it was the first mission trip in a series of many that have spanned over thirty years now. Every one has been both challenging and rewarding.

    Serving the Lord is the highest privilege anyone can have. I know He doesn't call everyone to missions. I'm not currently privileged to serve Him full time in missions, but there is no higher calling.

    I believe college missions trips will give their participants:

  • a greater appreciation for the work of missions
  • a greater understanding of the difficulties and challenges missionaries must overcome
  • a more thankful spirit for the blessings they have at home
  • a stronger burden to pray for missionaries and their work
  • in some cases, a call to serve on the field they visited, or on another field

    The outcome for me from my college mission trip in the summer of 1978?

    I suspect we'd have to say...all of the above, but the details are for another page.

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