Over 20 years ago, I went on my first mission trip with Chapel Hill to Mexico. Back in those days our Mexico trip was in the summer, we rode buses all the way down I-5 to Tijuana, and we slept on church floors along the way. We are all grateful for the introduction of midwinter break and flights to San Diego! That first trip to Mexico whet my appetite for how, where, and why the Lord is working throughout the world. That first trip led me to three more trips to Mexico (I was a Golden Hammer before it was a thing). That first trip set me on a course for a lifetime of passport stamps and purpose as I respond to the call that God has placed on my life to encourage others to engage in global mission’s work.
When I reflect back on God’s call on my life, this church played an important role in molding me into your Director of Missions. Chapel Hill has a reputation for being involved in the world. We see our engagements as mutually transformative. We know that visiting prisons in Bangkok, or painting rooms in New Delhi, or training counselors in Cambodia not only serves our partners, it shapes us. I know this is true, because I have been transformed myself. That transformation is why we send teams and support organizations around the world. It is why we send out missionaries from our church. It is why we give a tenth of our church budget to Kingdom-building in our community and to the ends of the earth. We want to be a part of what God is doing, and we want to see what he does to us.
It seems fitting that we welcome back our students from Mexico the same Sunday we commission three more teams to go out into the world. As our young people return to school in ponchos and In-N-Out shirts, processing the ways they saw God move in Mexico, 30 of us are packing our moisture wicking fabrics to go on teams to Cambodia, India, and Arizona State University as we come alongside the work that three different organizations are doing. And I know that we have set up some of these students for a lifetime of raising their hand and answering God’s call, “Here I am, send me!”