Ric Peterson would have done anything to get out of going on a mission trip to Appalachia. But God told him to GO and his wife wouldn’t let him out of it, so he went—reluctantly.
It ended up being a week he’ll never forget.
When my wife suggested we go on a family mission trip, I begrudgingly agreed.
Years ago I would have been excited about the opportunity but the older I get, the more set in my ways I am. Plus, I’m a law enforcement officer and over the years I’ve become increasingly suspicious of people, their motives, and their willingness to change.
So I wasn’t optimistic about any real life altering decisions in someone’s situation.
As the departure date drew closer, my anxiety about the trip increased. So much so, I would have volunteered for a quadruple root canal to keep from going if I thought I could have gotten away with it.
On the day we left, I went to the restroom and started tossing a tennis ball in the air then yelled to my wife, “Sweetheart, I’m sorry I can’t go… I’m in the bathroom throwing up.” To which she replied, “Wipe your mouth and grab a barf bag. WE’RE GOING!!!!
After an 11 hour drive, we arrived at the prescribed meeting spot in Duffield, Virginia, approximately two hours early. Despite being 11 hours from home, I was still trying to figure a way out of this. Although faking a heart attack would have been an over the top and inappropriate choice, I’ll admit that I never took it off the table as a viable option.
I started down the driveway to the church once and chickened out so I turned around. The town is only a 1/2 of a square mile in area and I circled this small town of 91 so many times that the locals nicknamed me “Jeff Gordon” after the famous race car driver who made a lot of money driving in circles.
Finally, when I could stall no longer, I pulled down the gravel road to Grace Fellowship Church. It seemed to go on for 15 miles.
My wife joyfully hopped out of the car and boldly searched for someone in charge. I, on the other hand, felt fear overwhelm me. It glued me to my driver’s seat as if Gorilla Glue was holding on for all it’s worth.
Sporting a smile from ear to ear, an overly excited lady named “Lee” came out to greet me and the kids. I responded with a scowl that would make Clint Eastwood proud.
The next two hours were filled with so much anxiety that I literally started having shallow breathing and felt as if someone were squeezing my chest. I now know why anxiety and heart attacks feel so much alike. Suffice it to say, I literally “willed” my way through an icebreaker meeting that was filled with way too many annoying things, like smiles and people.
We received our lodging and ministry assignments, then dismissed to drive to the final spot in Tennessee about forty minutes away. I had to sleep on a church’s classroom floor. When I finally dozed off, I tossed and turned for three hours before getting up.
The following day we began our ministry assignments. It started out rough but then it happened… the breakthrough I desperately needed! God had wonderfully pieced together a team of people that helped me break out of my shell and come alive. For the next four days I had an amazing experience of serving food to children and laughing heartily with new friends.
During that week, hundreds of meals were served and clothes distributed, to homeless or low-income families who were much like anyone reading this. Also, improvements were made to two homeless shelters, time was spent with elderly adults, a children’s “Day Camp” was assisted and several in the community were prayed for with one-on-one attention they so hungrily desired.
The transformation I watched in the others in my group were just as impressive. Other introverts like me got to minister to hurting people in a way others couldn’t.
Several of us admitted to being well out of our comfort zones and God provided the boldness we needed in the exact moments we needed it.
With that came unspeakable rewards when looking how you changed a person’s day, week, or possibly even their life.
Our group leader, Lee, turned out to be so sweet and kind, touching our lives in ways I can’t yet measure. She, along with our other mission leader, Jess, made us feel important, powerful, and led by example as they lovingly nudged us to make a lasting impact not only in the lives of those to whom we ministered, but also in us. They showed love and compassion to us as much as they did to those we were trying to help. I guess, in a way, their mission was to minister to us so we could minister to others.
I sit here typing on the eve of our departure from this week-long adventure kinda sad we are leaving and feel compelled to say: To anyone reading this note, take a chance on an Adventures mission trip. It will be a decision you will likely never regret.
Ric had many good reasons for not going on a mission trip, but he still went. Sleeping on a church floor, being around strangers for a week, and doing service projects were outside of his comfort zone—but it turns out it was exactly where God wanted him to be.
What about you? Is God calling you to GO on a mission trip? CLICK HERE for 2017 trips to Appalachia, or HERE for short term mission trips throughout the world!