In January 2013, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Masaya, Nicaragua, with a group from my college. A year later, I am able to look back on the trip and reflect on what I learned. The mission trip opened my eyes. I was immersed in another culture for 10 days, worshipping with locals and witnessing both the differences and similarities between global and local ministry. This awe-inspiring experience brought three major truths to my attention.
When I returned from Nicaragua, I started to fall back into my old ways, despite knowing the dangers of forgetting what I had learned. I took advantage of being able to drink tap water, started complaining about gas prices and went back to feeding my cell phone addiction. It is so easy to live life comfortably, going through our routine and never thinking about others who don’t have the luxuries we do.
Blessed in Ministry
My trip taught me how blessed we truly are to be doing ministry in the United States. We don’t have to worship in secret or worry about being arrested for witnessing to others. We are encouraged to practice religious freedom, and we can even listen to radio stations that play commercial-free Christian music all day every day. What a blessing! From a ministry standpoint, living in the United States is pretty amazing. No matter how small our budget is or how many hours we pour into our work, we have more resources than most Christians in developing countries could ever dream of having for their ministries.
In Nicaragua, I attended a worship service in a one-room church with no windows, air conditioning or pews. It didn’t have a state-of-the-art sound system, a projector screen or a fancy offering plate. However, the pastors felt blessed to have a place to worship, even if it was a one-room building with a dirt floor. Here in the United States, we get so caught up in comparing ourselves to others and wishing for what we don’t have. In developing countries, people are thankful for what they have regardless of how modest it may be. We, as Americans, are incredibly blessed in local ministry.
Global and Local
Another thing I learned in Nicaragua is the equal importance of both global and local ministries. I strongly believe that God calls each of us to a specific type of ministry. However, not everyone’s mission field is the same. For a long time, I struggled with the belief that true Christians packed up everything they had and moved to another country. I thought that being on fire for God meant leaving our comfortable lives here and ministering to the less fortunate halfway around the world. Ironically, my mission trip to Nicaragua disproved this theory.
No matter where we practice ministry and share the gospel, we are all answering God’s call. For some, God’s plan is for them to go overseas and encourage people in other countries. For others, God’s call is to a mission field right in their own back yard. What going global taught me is that there are people everywhere working for the glory of the Lord. It was extremely encouraging to see Christians who made the sacrifice to leave their comfortable lives in the United States to live in a new country and share God’s love.
I enjoyed hearing the missionaries’ testimonies and empathized with them when they told us of the struggles they faced living in a foreign land. I could clearly see that God was working through them to reach Nicaraguans. Although I respected them more than words can express, I could not shake the feeling that I needed to be back home sharing my experiences and igniting the fire for God in my town. Observing the joy of the missionaries and Christians in Nicaragua triggered a desire for me to experience that same passion in my home church, on my college campus and in my own life. There are people everywhere working for the glory of God, and each mission field is just as crucial as the next.
The most remarkable thing I learned from my mission trip was that God is, in fact, omnipresent. The same God that touches people in Illinois speaks to folks in Texas, encourages migrant workers in India, answers the prayers of mothers in Nicaragua and heals the sick in Australia. Our amazing God works for the good of those who love Him in every nation, every decade and every situation. He does not leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). The power of this truth is incredible. Praise God!
In Nicaragua, I witnessed this truth while sitting in a church service on a Sunday morning. While listening to the praise songs in Spanish, I recognized a familiar tune and sang “Amazing Grace” along with 300 other Christians. During this worship service, I had a realization: God is present. Although the Nicaraguans’ culture is different than mine and we don’t speak the same language, these Christians worship the same God as I worship. He works in their lives just as He does in mine.
No matter where we decide to grow our roots, God is working in our lives. He calls us all to do something unique, and that is a beautiful thing. The journey of faith is not a cookie-cutter experience. You will not have the same testimony as your neighbor. God gives us each diverse talents, passions and opportunities to share His Word in our own way. Some of us will end up planting churches overseas. Some will volunteer at a local church youth group. Others will share the gospel in the workplace. No matter where our mission field is, our work is important. God is with us. Now we are called to minster to others. Wherever you are, wherever God calls you, always remember that He walks with you.
Haley Thatcher is a recent Greenville College graduate who majored in communication and marketing. She is from Davison, Mich., where she attended the Davison Free Methodist Church. She enjoys spending time with her parents and four sisters, playing and watching sports, volunteering at her local youth group, traveling and planning for her summer wedding.
DISCUSSION: What global or local opportunities has God given me?  How can I support others whose mission field is different than mine? 0