“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Tim. 4:12
Tim Tripp II, a junior at UNCW, and Jacob Gillespie, an 8th grader at Myrtle Grove Christian, recently had the opportunity to be part of a short-term missions team to Kenya. During the trip, they helped put on a VBS at a boys shelter. As anyone who’s been to another country can tell you, a trip like this has a profound impact on you, and I was able to talk with both of them about their experience. Here are some of the highlights from those conversations.
What were you expecting?
Tim: I really didn’t know what to expect going in. I had a general concept, I expected it to be kind of primitive.
Jacob: I was expecting them not to speak much English, the housing to not be very good, and I expected the food to be rough.
How did your expectations match with how it actually was?
Tim: I was really blown away, once we got there, by their personalities, by their love for the Bible, their love to learn, and even how well we were able to get along. I wasn’t anticipating all that when I got there.
Jacob: The housing accommodations were better than I thought, and the kids knew a lot more English and all of the Bible stories. They didn’t understand their purpose or how they all connected, but I was surprised that they knew the stories at all, and by how many they knew.
How has the trip impacted your perspective on life here in America?
Tim: What really impressed me about the boys was how much joy they had – how, genuinely happy they were even in the situation that they were in. It just hit me, you know? Especially in America, we live in such a ‘consumeristic’ culture. “If I can’t have this, then I can’t be happy. You can’t be completely satisfied without having this and this and this.” And just being able to take a step back and realize, I don’t need any of this stuff to have joy. Joy doesn’t come from anything outside of me. It comes from God. It’s a gift of the Holy Spirit. All these other things are really just distractions from true joy…. Going forward, I’m trying to be more conscious of what’s driving me. Is it God? Or is it this job or this education?
Jacob: My perspective has completely changed. I’ve learned to be content with what I have and grateful for even the small things. Sure, I should be content with where I live and what I have, but it made me appreciate the small things too like water that your can drink safely.
How has the trip impacted your perspective on the church?
Tim: It gave me a better understanding of the universal Church. Even though we were from different countries, with different colors and different languages, we were still brothers in Christ. And that was something even they understood. It made me realize how big the Church is. How big God is. You think of God as isolated in your own mind, but we were worshiping the same God. Until you go and experience it, you don’t really understand it. It was something that I knew about but didn’t really comprehend until going on this trip.
Jacob: Something that stood out to me was that their church service focused on praising God. It changed my view on how much you should love God. They were really happy. Our church services seem more serious.
What are the benefits for young people to go on a missions trip?
Tim: It’s one of the only times in your life that you can freely do these sorts of things. If you’re planning on getting married, it’s going to be a lot harder to do it in the future… Everyone should have that experience. After being there, I wish so many people could have been there with me. I feel like it would change a lot of people’s perspectives. It would help with a lot of ignorance. It’s not that people are pridefully ignorant, they’ve just never seen it or experienced it. And I was the same way. Until you go, you don’t know how to understand or how to relate to what other people (around the world) are going through. You almost stereotype people in 3rd world countries and people in poverty. You don’t understand that they’re real people, just like me and you…. It made me appreciate what I have. It made me feel humbled and blessed. I wonder, “What did I do to deserve this?” One thing that none of us deserve is our salvation, but apart from that, I am more grateful now for what I have. A lot of my friends, they don’t have to work through school or pay bills, and I used to think, I’ve got it so hard – trying to work and go through school.” But I had no clue what hard was… These guys walk 15 miles to work in the morning. They have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning just to make it to work on time, and this is their daily life. And I’m complaining that I have to get up and go to work and drive in my car 15 minutes to go to work somewhere at 9 o’clock on a Saturday. I didn’t realize how selfish and how self-absorbed I was. There are millions and millions and millions of people who are struggling, and we are the ones complaining.
Jacob: People my age, they have a fluffy easy life yet they think it’s hard. Seeing others have it so difficult would help change their perspective and allow them to see how it is in the rest of the world. It would be helpful for the kids in my school, at least it helped me.
When I asked them to tell me about a highlight from the trip, they both referenced their final night with the boys. Thursday night, they killed a goat and had a party, sharing skits and performances that they had prepared for each other.
Jacob: The last night we were all sitting around the camp fire eating goat and talking about things that mattered to them. We had built a relationship with them and were able to talk about things that mattered to them – their future, things that they wanted to do. It was really cool.
Tim and Jacob were also moved by the goodbye’s they shared Friday.
Tim: It was hard to leave them. To play sports with them, and to teach, and to hear their stories, do skits, and watch them be themselves, to get immersed in their lives, and then have to leave. I didn’t realize how into them I was until it was time to leave. I didn’t want to go.
Jacob: The last day when we were leaving, some of the boys were really upset that we were leaving. They really cared for us. Some even tried to give us the things that they had, even though they barely had anything at all. It was really cool to see.
When I asked them, if they would go again, they both said without hesitating, “I would definitely go back.” Then they talked about a potential trip to Uganda next year. Even with the excitement of taking the Gospel to a new place, they were trying to figure out a way to get back to Kenya on the same trip to see the boys again. Their words had echoes of Paul and Timothy in them, who would frequently go back to visit and encourage churches along their missionary journeys to bring the Gospel to the ends of the Earth.
Be encouraged and challenged by the new perspectives gained by these young men.
Consider what role missions might play in raising your own children.
And, wherever you go, make disciples.