Paul Ress never imagined going on a mission trip. He thought it would be too hard to leave his wife and baby and impossible to take time off from work. It was way outside of his comfort zone.
He never imagined it until Southeast Christian Church Crestwood Campus Pastor Greg Allen pointed to him across the atrium.
“You’re going to Uganda,” he said.
Ress obeyed. He filled out an application, got immunizations and bought everything on a packing list he found on the Internet.
Last June, he left all he knew for 10 days. In Uganda, Ress had little control over the schedule, the people he met or the things he saw or did.
Looking back, he wouldn’t trade those days for anything.
“I got so much out of it,” Ress said. “At one point, I felt totally out of control when I went on a prayer walk with two nationals in one of the camps. I had no idea where we were going or who we’d meet, but it was amazing—something I’ll never forget.”
Ress now encourages others to sign up for a mission trip.
“People have the same excuses I did: work, kids, building homes, limited vacation, but that makes me so sad,” he said. “God wants all of us and all of our time. Going there changes life here.”
During weekend worship services Nov. 9-10, “Pray. Learn. Go.” cards will be distributed at all Southeast campuses. The card will give instructions on how to register for a trip and include a list of upcoming trips.
Ben Thornley, who works in Southeast’s Missions Ministry, said he’s never met anyone who regretted going on a short-term trip.
“Getting out of your comfort zone and putting yourself in a position to be stretched, to learn and to serve alongside other believers always seems to be as much a blessing for the trip participants as it is for those we are going to serve,” he said.
One of Vanessa Parker’s roles in Missions Ministry is meeting with teams before and after trips.
“All of us are called to serve,” Parker said. “One of the many ways to serve is to go on a mission trip. I hope that as people read the information on the card they will pray, learn more and take the final step to apply. This is an opportunity to serve with amazing Southeast partners around the world in the context of their ministry. But it takes faith and a willingness to step out of our comfort zone and be used by God.”
Opportunities are near and far, and some are open to families.
> Lexie Presta, 18, went on her first mission trip to Kenya last summer.
Her team set up a shoeshine stand by the side of the road to serve passersby. They heard people’s stories as they shined shoes and prayed for needs. Every encounter was unforgettable.
> Kristy Greene packed five English study Bibles on her mission trip to Sweden. It made no sense until young men she met at camp began asking for those Bibles. One student told her that he began thinking critically about God since reading his Bible.
> Joy Peterson will never forget pastors and community leaders she met in Kisumu, Kenya. One church leader said, “A transformed life speaks the loudest Gospel.”
“I am so thankful to walk with pastors and community leaders that speak a really loud Gospel that impacted me deeply,” Peterson said. “Sometimes the Gospel can seem complicated, but on a mission trip, we get to see God show up and do something beyond what we could imagine.”
> Mindy Stayton went to Kenya with her daughter, Natalie.
“May my heart never be the same,” she said.
> Teri Sullivan went with her family to Greece to work with refugees at a camp that was half Israeli and half Arab. They were a mix of seekers and believers. Days included sports, activities and small group time in cabins.
With tears running down his face, one Iraqi boy in a wheelchair asked, “Who is Jesus?”
> In New York City, students from Southeast visited church plants meeting in rented spaces. They helped set up and tear down after weekend services.
> In Orlando, Florida, a team helped put on a Bible school for 88 children in a new community built around a hospital complex.