Flip Your Perspective

By Kinsey Tucker, Partnership Coordinator

Five years ago, I went on a short-term mission trip to Joplin that changed my life. In that week, our group worked on a roof that had been damaged by a tornado. I talked a little bit with the homeowner we were working with but I didn’t have deep conversations with her. I didn’t ever learn much about her story.

I did some construction and met a community member but the real reason that trip stayed with me was because of the staff running the mission trip and the way they poured into me and my faith.

That trip was about me. But the Lord is so faithful and He used that trip in ways I could never have imagined. After I got home, I immediately applied to work with the organization that ran the mission trip because I wanted to impact students just like the staff impacted me. I got to do that for three summers in Joplin and Jesus totally flipped my perspective on mission trips.

Now I’ve developed a passion for short-term mission trips to change the lives of the students that participate in them, but not at the expense of the homeowners and community partners we work alongside. People have asked me before how I reconcile my love for the community I live and serve in, with potentially harmful short-term mission trips. My answer is simple. Short-term mission trips are ALWAYS going to happen. They’re easy. They change lives for high school students. They are a great way to get church youth groups excited about serving and bond closer together. So if these trips are always going to happen, I have a huge blessing to get to speak into those trips and hopefully flip the perspective of hundreds of high school students just like my perspective was flipped. Instead of fighting short-term trips, what if we equip students with the information to have a more responsible mission trip that empowers the community they are serving in?

If I can be a small part of reminding students that come on these mission trips each summer that there is more to the story of this community than what they see on the surface, then I’m serving this community. If I remind students that the homeowner they are working alongside has their own specific gifts and talents and has something to contribute to the work being done on their home, then maybe I’ve had a small impact to help these students recognize they are not the Savior, only Jesus is. If I implore students to ask questions and dig deep with homeowners and develop relationships, then this community’s story becomes more than just a tornado. Students learn that a mission trip isn’t about them. It’s about learning stories and developing relationships and creating long-lasting change. And that changes the students’ lives in innumerable ways.

Every single person on this planet has a story that has been uniquely weaved together by a creative God. The homeowners and church members I work alongside week after week in this community have stories to tell. Only relationships and story-telling is ever going to change a community. We can fix roofs and replace siding but if we don’t get personal with the homeowners, we miss out.

Here’s the bottom line: your short-term trip can have a long-term impact in a community when your perspective is flipped. Build relationships while you build decks. Build storytelling while you build floors. Build a multi-faceted view of the community while you build walls. Build up the community instead of building up yourself. I guarantee this perspective will still create a life-changing trip for you personally, but I also know it will have a lasting impact on the community. Win-Win.