I was serious about my faith, but never felt like I resembled the people I always saw in mission trip photos. I didn’t feel like I was a good enough Christian to go on a mission trip. – Patrick Erskine
In my second year of university, a friend of mine asked me if I would ever consider going on a missions trip.
I still remember my response.
“Nope. Not interested.”
I knew what missions trips with P2C – Students looked like, and they were not for me. These things I knew for certain: I was not good at evangelism, I did not have the money to go on a trip, and I liked lazy summers.
My idea of a good summer was catching up on movies, eating tons of bbq, and hanging with friends. Flying across the world to have conversations about Jesus was not at the top of my list. Plus, these trips were for keeners who excelled at sharing their faith and were super spiritual, weren’t they? I was serious about my faith, but never felt like I resembled the people I always saw in mission trip photos. I didn’t feel like I was a good enough Christian to go on a mission trip.
It turns out I was completely right. I wasn’t good enough. But God had plans for me anyways, and I ended up going to Panama that summer to share the gospel. That trip changed my life in ways I never expected.
So why did I change my mind?
For someone who was so firm on not going on a missions trip, it seems odd that I would end up in Panama that very same year to engage with students about the gospel. After a few months of thought, and through lots of prayer and conversations with other Christians, God helped me overcome three specific barriers that I thought disqualified me from missions.
Strike 1: I suck at talking about Jesus
I joined the Power to Change – Students community at my school because I wanted to get better at talking about Jesus. I wanted to have meaningful and helpful spiritual conversations with my friends, but I just really suckat it.
I was terrified of saying the wrong things, I was worried that my friends would judge me for my views, and I was afraid of being exposed as a pitiful Christian who doesn’t have all the right answers. If I had a hard time sharing my faith with my friends at home, how would I ever succeed at sharing my faith with strangers who didn’t even speak my language?
The more I prayed, the more it became clear to me how simple the solution was to this problem.
I started to think about all the things I was good at doing, and then looked back to a time when I was bad at those things. When I first started playing drums, I was the worst! I was the suckiest suck that ever sucked. I hit things and they made noise. But at no point while I was learning to play drums did I think about quitting just because I wasn’t a master. I practised, because that was the no-brainer solution to getting better. If I had the opportunity to take a six-week crash course in drumming, I would have jumped on that in a second.
I mistakenly thought that I had to be an evangelism expert in order to participate in a missions trip. Looking back on my experience, those six weeks I spent in Panama provided me with the best possible training ground to grow in my ability to share the gospel with others. And I definitely wasn’t the only one learning. Together with other members on my team (who began to feel like family), we learned that obedience was our job, and the results were up to God. Once we came to an understanding that it was up to God to change people’s hearts, we were free to just obey.
By the end of the six-week trip, I had grown more in evangelism than I ever had in my entire life. This mission trip wasn’t just for evangelism elites. It was a training ground for those who wanted to grow.
Strike #2: I suck at fundraising
Actually, I didn’t know that I stunk at fundraising. I just really didn’t want to do it. To me, asking for money is the worst.
When I was a kid I delivered the local newspaper, and they encouraged us to go door-to-door to collect money from customers who appreciated our service. A bunch of my friends did it and made a good amount of cash, but I refused. The idea made me shudder. As a Canadian, asking for anything is an uncomfortable thing to do. I feel awkward asking for extra ketchup packets at McDonald’s, never mind asking friends and family to help me pay for a trip to a different country.
In the end, I ended up raising above and beyond the required amount. Meeting up with people felt uncomfortable at first, but that quickly changed. As I talked to people about what I would be doing on my missions trip, they actually expressed excitement at the opportunity to contribute financially.
I began to realize that the people I talked to wanted to be a part of this missions trip, and by asking them to give, I was opening the door for them to participate. By focusing more on my own insecurities about asking people for money, I was completely missing out on what it meant for people to be able to give towards something they believed in and were excited to take part in.
By focusing more on my own insecurities about asking people for money, I was completely missing out on what it meant for people to be able to give towards something they believed in and were excited to take part in. – Patrick Erskine
Strike #3: I suck at speaking Spanish
Actually, to say that I stunk at Spanish is a bit misleading. It’s more accurate to say that I had absolutely no idea how to say literally anything in Spanish. I had never watched Dora, the Explorer growing up, and unless the words “taco”, “burrito”, and “quesadilla” count, my proficiency in Spanish was precisely 0%. Surely this alone was enough to prevent me from even considering going to Panama to share the gospel.
Luckily, I was compelled to take a step of faith into the unknown and see how God would work in a seemingly impossible circumstance. To my surprise, I saw two people come to Christ in Panama as a result of conversations I had with them through local translators.
On another occasion, a friend and I decided to go out on campus by ourselves without a translator just to see what would happen. In hindsight this sounds like a horrible plan, but something miraculous happened. The first person we approached ended up being the only English-speaking student we met during our time there. As a result of our possibly ill-advised boldness, we had a deep conversation with someone about the differences between his religion and what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
Trusting the God of overcoming
These things happened not because I was a good evangelist (read: bad), or because I could speak their language (I couldn’t). In fact, my limitations were a perfect opportunity to allow God to work through me. In those moments I had no choice but to fully rely on God, and the results were mind-blowing.
This isn’t to say that every time you step out in faith you will have a miraculous story or a clear cut example of how God worked in that exact moment. But what I did learn from this experience was that my limitations were not a hindrance, but an opportunity for God’s power to be magnified.
If you want to grow in evangelism but are intimidated by the idea of a missions trip, you’re not the only one. Take those fears and insecurities, embrace them, and let God’s power be magnified through them.