This picture is from a youth mission trip taken to Chang Mai Thailand. The missionaries we were with offered to take us to this beautiful waterfall set in the midst of the Thailand jungle. The stones and rocks over which the cascading water fell were covered in some sort of mineral deposit that made walking on the rocks extremely easy. It almost felt like your feet would stick to the rocks. It was an experience that I’m sure I and everyone else on the trip will never forget.
Another thing we will never forget from that trip are the faces and smiles of the children at Care Corner Orphanage. We spent a little over a week living at the orphanage and ministering to and being ministered to by these children. At that time I would say they were probably somewhere around 60 to 70 kids in the orphanage. There was even a special ward for AIDS kids.
I cannot begin to explain to you the blessing it is to spend time in a place like this. I asked Ricky Tan the founder and director of this orphanage what would happen to these kids if the orphanage was not there. He told me that, in Thailand, an orphan has very little chance of escaping the drug trade or sex trafficking. Thailand is a popular destination for pedophiles seeking gratification. It is heartbreaking to look in the face of a beautiful little six-year-old girl and realize that she could’ve ended up in that world.
I will admit that I was very apprehensive when I was told that there were AIDS children at the orphanage. As a youth pastor I was concerned about taking young people, for whom I was responsible, into direct contact with those kids. I talked with my wife who is a nurse and asked her what the dangers might be. She explained to me the necessary precautions and I felt that we would be safe. I felt horrible when I got to Thailand and saw these beautiful children stricken with the disease through no fault of their own. I was embarrassed that I had been concerned to reach out and love these kids. The orphanage does a fantastic job getting the kids their meds and providing for all their needs. They seem like healthy happy kids.
One evening I sat with one of the AIDS kids on my lap. As I sat with her, attempting to communicate through smiles and tickles and funny faces, my eyes welled up with tears to realize that this child had a disease that, barring any unforeseen circumstances, will take her life. Indeed she would most likely already be dead had it not been for Care Corner Orphanage.
As pastors we lead mission trips with the intent of changing lives in the mission fields to which we go. But I’ve come to realize that the lives that are truly changed by those who go on these trips. As American Christians we take so much for granted in terms of what we have and the freedoms we have to worship and live. When we get out into a Third World country we realize what we have been given and how selfish we can be.We see people living in what we would call poverty, in a state that we don’t believe we could possibly exist. Without flatscreen TVs, without computers, sometimes without electricity. And yet these believers seem truly happy and content.
As I look back at the mission trips that I took with young people I see that it is on those trips that God worked most deeply in their hearts. Is there, in a foreign country, that many a young person and adult came to grips with the superficiality of their faith and, casting that superficiality aside, decided to pursue a deeper, stronger, more faithful relationship with their Savior.
I encourage you go on a short-term mission trip. Go with an open heart and an open mind but be prepared… Your life may never be the same.