Mission Trips: are we really making an impact?


The 2019 school mission trip team.

Jenna Culpepper, Opinion Editor

On July 16, 2019, a group of 13 students and five faculty members took off for a six-day trip to the Dominican Republic. We landed exhausted but excited and hopeful for the days to come.

Every day during the trip, the team held Vacation Bible School at a church in the morning and a village in the afternoon.

The church was a small building with a concrete wall surrounding it that allowed us a place outside to play with the kids. As the week went on, that once dull concrete wall became increasingly full of vibrant chalk. It proudly displayed both made-up stories and the names of many kids and members of our team.

The village had a small, one-story building that was shining with year old green and blue paint that many of us recognized from the year before.

Behind the building was freshly laid concrete and a basketball hoop for the kids to play on. Tires were strewn across the concrete because they had been displaced by the kids when they jumped over them, rolled them around, and used them as race cars.

During the day, we performed a short skit about the armor of God in Spanish before breaking out into various activities.

Throughout the week, we learned little games from the kids, played Dominican checkers (yes, there is a difference from American checkers), and took in the priceless reactions of the kids as they raced back to the start of our make- shift human obstacle  course. They would jump over us, run underneath our legs, and sprint as fast as they could to finish first.

By the end of the trip, one question lingered in my mind: how much of an impact did our team actually make? How do you measure the impression made in someone’s heart? More so, how do you have a lasting effect in only a short amount of time to a group of kids who don’t speak the same language?

Short term missions is a term used to describe when a person or a team goes somewhere for a short period of time and then leaves without any sort of long term network or support to help the community they served in. That kind of mission, especially with young children, is challenging. 

A team is sent to a church or community, they get to know the kids, they love on them, maybe they give them a few simple treats, and then they leave, possibly to never be seen again. Our team shared four short, but fulfilling, days with the children in the DR.

Yoelo and I on the 2019 school mission trip.

During the summer of 2018, on the first school mission trip, the team went to Experimental, the same village we returned to this year. I remember stepping off the bus this year and seeing Yoelo, a little boy I met the year before and had played with every day.

His face lit up as our eyes met and he smiled wide. I asked Yoelo if he remembered me from last year. He shyly nodded his head and smiled at me in response.

One day in the future Yoelo could remember. He could remember the people on our team and how we came and loved on him and his community because of Jesus. Or maybe he will remember one of the skits that we performed.

At the end of the day, he might not remember my face or even me at all, but I didn’t go there to be remembered by a smiley little boy. I went to make a real spiritual impact in the lives of the children I met.

If our team sowed the seeds of the gospel on good soil, then we did what we were called to do in Matthew 28 in “The Great Commission.” If we planted the seeds then one day those little seeds could grow into a fruitful crop that helps spread the gospel to new places and people.

The smiles from the kids, the joy they found in the simple things, and the fun they had when singing songs and dancing with us. The overall indescribable experience I had interacting with the kids throughout the week, that seems like an impact to me.