“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty” said by St. Teresa of Kolkata.
As FOCUS missionaries, we spend most of our time on college campuses, raising up disciples for God’s kingdom and seeking out the spiritually poor. Another fantastic and integrative part of our mission is the opportunity to go on foreign and domestic mission trips.
First, what is the mission of the Catholic Church? My roommates and I talked about it more because we realized that many Catholics don’t know the “why” behind our Church. Why do we receive the sacraments and pray? The purpose is not simply because it’s “what you do.”
Before He ascended into Heaven, Jesus gave one last statement to His disciples, which becomes the mission of the Church: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Being the last statement Jesus made before His Ascension, this call holds particular authority and brings light to His teaching on discipleship. From those 12 apostles, the Church grew to include the billions who are here today. A new Pentecost is happening and mission trips are amazing places for discipleship to develop, both on the ground during the trip and in what we bring back to our communities.
One purpose of mission trips is to serve the people we are visiting. However, this service is rarely what you would expect. I went on a mission trip to Trinidad and Tobago last summer for one week. Most of our mission team didn’t know where the island was at first, but it quickly found a place in our hearts. They are a proud, joyful people who love their country. We put on multiple sports camps for the kids and shared the Gospel around the village. At first, it seemed a little selfish to be having fun on a mission trip with sports that we enjoyed, but that is where I was wrong. It meant the world to those children to have us come simply to play with and love them. You see, as great as service is and as much as it helps, the love that we shared with those kids touched their hearts even more. Service was simply the tool for the real transformation—the love of God working in the world. We taught their classes that week, and we traveled up both sides of the massive hills of their country to talk to their villagers. (Side note: As steep as Dubuque’s hills are, Dubuque has nothing on Trinidad. Those hills were more like mountains.)
In sharing the Gospel, both villagers and mission trips are given a renewed hope, a hope that leads to eternal life in Christ Jesus, because God is real and faith is powerful in our everyday lives. One girl told me that she and her mother were being stalked by a few men in the streets of Trinidad during Carnaval, when, after the girl had prayed, a taxi driver drove up to offer them a free ride home. What faith she had! I’m not saying that we should stop doing whatever we can materially for the poor, but when we fail to nurture the soul with the love of Jesus Christ as well, are we really serving them?
The two-fold mission of FOCUS Mission Trips is “to serve the physical and spiritual needs of the poor, meeting them where they are and embracing their community and dignity, and to bring college students into radical, life-changing encounters in which we equip them to address the spiritual and physical needs of their own communities.” I am now going on two athlete mission trips—one to the Dominican Republic this winter and one to Chicago in the summer. My teammate Emma is going on a woman’s pilgrimage to Poland later this summer. Do you have a desire to share stories like this and to be transformed yourself? FOCUS Missions is now at 44 countries, with over 130 trips, and almost 2,000 people on mission. What if you said yes? You can find out more info at https://focusoncampus.org/missions/trips or by talking with someone who has gone on FOCUS mission trips. God bless you!