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Mission trip leaves father hungry for more


HOUSTON — I step off the plane on a spiritual high.
I’ve just spent a week in a Third World country on a mission trip.
I’ve worked side by side with my two younger children — Keaton, 16, and Kendall, 14 — to show God’s love to precious souls with far fewer material possessions than our family enjoys.
But after skipping lunch to catch our three-hour flight back to the U.S., I’m hungry. Actually, I’m S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G.
Before I can eat, we endure a too-long Customs and Border Protection line.

Kendall Ross, far right, and Hannah Gigstad visit with Nicaraguan kids. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)
By the time we make it through the line, it’s past 5 p.m. My blood sugar level is running low. My grumpy meter is spiking.
I’m feeling the physical effects of a week of rewarding but exhausting workdays.
Fortunately, I’m close to the finish line — just a short connecting flight from home.
But first: dinner.
I salivate at the thought of the half-pound burger that I’m about to devour.
Hello, my beefy, cheese-topped friend!
My son and I get in line at the airport Fuddruckers, one of my favorite burger joints. He orders right before me.
Soon, Keaton’s Texas-sized burger and fries arrive. I lick my lips. The savory aroma drifts to my side of the table. My nostrils celebrate.
Five minutes pass. Then five more.
My stomach growls. Loudly. I approach the counter.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman tells me. “You’ll have to get your money back.”
Whaaaaaaaaaat!?
There’s a gas leak in the terminal. The leak has forced the restaurant to turn off its grill. They can’t fry any more burgers.
My spiritual high crashes in a hurry.
I sulk and eventually settle for a cold turkey sandwich at Scholtzsky’s.

Keaton Ross, right, with children at a Vacation Bible School in Nicaragua. (PHOTO BY BOBBY ROSS JR.)
A thought strikes me: Surely the devil wouldn’t test my priorities so soon after a remarkable mission trip, right?
Hours removed from a world where children sleep on dirt floors and families survive on less a day than my sandwich cost, I know the answer, of course.
A mountaintop experience is called that for a reason. At some point, you have to come down from the mountain.
Alas, I am familiar with the letdown after a mission trip, as God has given me the opportunity to serve in places such as Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and South Africa.
Still, I can’t think of any better experience for an individual Christian — or an entire family — than taking a week to go and serve the Lord.
At this point, I assume more than a few readers are hollering at the page: “You don’t have to leave the country to do God’s work!”
Yes, I understand that. I appreciate the need to serve our neighbors at home. I know that huge pockets of our own nation remain unreached. And I’m all for improving our efforts in those areas.

Bobby Ross Jr. helps with a painting project in Nicaragua. (PHOTO BY KEATON ROSS)
But for the purposes of this column, here are a few reasons why I love mission trips outside our nation’s borders:
• Perspective: You learn about your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world and gain a better understanding of their circumstances. A mission trip can challenge and increase your faith and remind you that God’s family is global.
• Investment: These trips aren’t cheap, but ultimately, many more thousands of dollars are funneled into mission work because Christians personally know the people and congregations they’re helping.
• Memories: Away from the daily grind, you get to know people in your home church family better and create lasting memories. Text messages, sports scores and developments on your favorite reality show become less important. You might even take time to enjoy the colors in the sunset.
Of course, some ask if people in the nations served actually benefit. I sure hope so.
The best mission efforts occur when Americans listen and learn instead of telling foreigners what to do. In that scenario, our brothers and sisters abroad see us as more than walking dollar signs.
From a purely selfish standpoint, I pray that exposing my own children to mission work will nurture their faith and soften their hearts for Christian service.
As for me, I’m feeling rejuvenated — and extremely blessed — after a good night’s sleep in my own bed.
But I’m craving a burger.
Bobby Ross Jr. is Managing Editor of The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected]
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