I remember my first pioneer mission trip like it was yesterday. Loaded with excitement, we headed to the Tex-Mex border on spring break from the Baylor campus to reach out and share the gospel with a community I had never heard of before. The town was called La Paloma.
Just a naïve, untrained, nineteen-year-old freshman, I had no idea what missions was. If anything, I was skeptical about missions. Growing up in Reno, Nevada, I often heard our church mention the term “pioneer missions” since our area was newly hearing the gospel. “Pioneer missions,” I scoffed to myself, “Who am I? Daniel Boone?”
Nevertheless, the long trip to the southern tip of Texas would have life-long repercussions. How could the Lord possibly use somebody like me to impact others to know the heart of Jesus? I could only begin to imagine. The vision of a broader, wonderful world—one that needs HOPE—started to unfold before my very eyes.
In this post, I’ll share what I discovered.
Pioneer Missions Stretches Vision and Love
Pioneer Missions, I would soon learn, is about losing yourself, crossing borders and barriers to connect with others so they connect with Christ. This sounds simple enough, but there is usually action required that takes a step of faith. For example, I attended some training events while preparing for the trip.
A group was preparing to do construction, and then another group was training to teach the Word to kids. I had joined up with what I considered the “safe group,” working the construction angle. Sitting in the circle on the floor of the Student Ministry Center, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “What are you doing here? Get over into the other group!” I was obedient but wondered what I was in for.
I would soon discover I was in for one of the most significant times of my life. When we arrived at our destination, we went door to door, inviting families to connect with the church and sharing the Word with kids. The people opened up their hearts to us, and we felt such incredible joy and affection for working with them.
One family even handed me one of their roosters to meet this city dweller. Soon, the children came out in droves to hear the stories of the Bible. I was astounded at how well the Lord used the whole team.
In the evenings, we gathered around to share and sing about what the Lord was doing. The Spirit of Jesus overflowed and filled our hearts with gladness, sweet hope, and great joy of doing the Lord’s work!
In addition to changing others’ lives, depending upon Jesus on a deeper level made a real impact on me.
Tragedy Reveals the Inner Work
I realized that while we wanted to serve the people—and did—the significant change took place in those of us who stepped out into the unknown.
Sadly, there was an even more dramatic conclusion to our trip. While heading home from McAllen to Waco, our caravan was struck by a drunk driver who slammed head-on into our lead car. Charla Smelley and Mike Lowery, two of our leading team members, perished in the accident. For them, they paid the ultimate price. We held a 30-year reunion in 2018 to celebrate God’s accomplishments and remember the two exceptional leaders who had died.
Pioneer Missions Made a Lasting Impact
Something happened to me that week that I’ll never forget. It lit a spark for pioneer missions that has never gone out. Living like the explorer Daniel Boone, I discovered, is not bad after all. The Lord awakened something in me I never knew was there. Likewise, Jesus delights to share His redemptive message and blesses those who engage His calling to the last places on earth.
Finally, as I discovered firsthand, it’s difficult not to grow when getting involved in missions. Your faith, your leadership, your prayer life, and your love all grow while grasping the vision of Christ to restore the hurting and broken.
Stepping out in faith for Jesus’ mission opens a whole new world, learning about other cultures, other languages, and other peoples. And, by “losing oneself” along the way, our wisdom and vision increases like never before.