Going on a mission trip had always been a pretty a far-fetched dream of mine, and quite frankly I thought it would always stay just that—a dream. Thankfully, God’s plans are not affected by my wavering emotions or my sense of uncertainty. He has always had fresh, exciting journeys planned for my life, far greater adventures than I could put together on my own. My timid curiosity transformed into a genuine perusal of my heart’s hidden passion through seeing and hearing stories of other young women taking this remarkable step of faith.
I hope these words I write fill you with wonder, courage, and inspiration to pursue the very things that make your own hearts dance. If you haven’t been on a mission trip before, I pray my words can bring insight and understanding; and for those of you who have, I hope you can relate to this story as you play back your own adventures. Two summers back, I dipped my toes into the mission field for the first time. Croatia, a country I, up until then, had no idea existed, became the ground where God molded me in new and stretching ways. Gospel on the Go, based in Zagreb, Croatia, is a ministry that works with both Croatians and Romis. Romis, a people group originated from Romania, speak their own distinct language from the rest of the world. Most Romis have a 3rd grade education. Job opportunities are almost non-existent. To provide for their families, men dig through trash for metal to sell. The women take care of their many children (it is not unusual for a 21-year-old woman to be married with three or more kids). Unfortunately, segregation is a massive issue for the Romis in Croatia. Daily these beautiful people deal with being looked down upon like dirty trash when engaging in the simplest of activities like going to the market to buy bread, riding through the town to visit family in a nearby village, or even simply sitting at their desks in class. They live in immense poverty with homes made of unfinished mud-bricks and dirt floors. No heat for the winter or air for the summer. No plumbing.
Gospel on the Go serves to help educate the Romis and spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. To learn more about both the people group and the ministry I worked with, go here. My first trip overseas was nothing short of eye opening. Although it was something I longed to do, I had to let go of every comfort that I had always tightly grasped in my hands. I learned that God wasn’t simply calling me to go on a mission trip, he was calling me to draw closer to him, to live intentionally, to become more like him, to lay my life down, to trust deeper, and to let Him work in and through me. I’ve learned that recklessly letting go of my comforts and clinging to God opens a door for Him to teach and mold me in unique ways that my comforts had never before allowed. The days were long and hard, constantly on the go, constantly serving. He met me in the midst of those hard places, knowing my needs, and supplying me with abundantly more. God was my unexplainable energy, joy, and peace. Jesus was my fill; he was my overflow. Over my time in Croatia, I learned that to genuinely serve, we must embrace putting our needs to the side, just as Jesus did for us. Thankfully, the picture is much bigger than you and I, and it is far, far greater.
Although I was the one traveling to another country to serve and teach, it was the Romis who selflessly served and taught me. I fell in love with the simple country of Croatia through getting to know the joyful and beautiful souls that existed in spite of the immense poverty. The scales were peeled back from my eyes. I saw clearly these people who outwardly were very different than me, were in actuality inwardly very similar. We shared a deep need in our core, a thirst that could only be quenched by Jesus Christ. I quickly threw aside the smell and the dirt that blanketed these children, wrapped my arms around them and kissed them. These dirty children were stainless to me.
Because isn’t that how Jesus sees us? God reminded me of His gospel through His people in these villages. We are dirty, SO incredibly dirty in our sin no matter how clean and put together our lives look on the outside. Without Jesus we have dirty hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10). But God, in His grace, sent Jesus to take all of our dirt and mess upon Himself so that we can be seen as clean and have eternal life with Him. Because of Jesus, God can pick us up, wrap His arms around us, lavish His kisses on us, and provide us with His joy, love, peace, comfort, life, and freedom. He is worthy of all praise. I was in awe. I was amazed how the people in these remote villages knew and worshiped the very same God I call Father. I was amazed that God would use my sinful self to spread His Gospel and glorify His name. In Croatia, my position of humility I held before God intensified. As my 19 days came to an end, I was not ready to go home. I had changed.
Flash-forward eight months later and I was sitting on a flight back to Croatia to serve with my best friend and Gospel on the Go once again, but this time, for three months. Croatia quickly became my home. The other interns, staff, and the Romis became family as we shared life stories, the deep parts of our hearts, worshiped our Savior, laughed freely, and loved each other with no boundaries. In the mornings I would walk to the local café, sip on my bitter European Americano, journaled, read my Bible, and planned out teachings for the day. The only still and silent times of my summer were these mornings, accompanied only by the hushed background talk of the local Croatians. At night, the small living room that housed us became the center of meetings, teachings, and enjoyable conversations. The day sandwiched between was hustle and bustle that held so much variety over the course of the summer that honestly, would take pages of writings to thoroughly explain it all.
Everyday was nourished with true relationships, belly laughs, lively dancing, intentional words, and the word of God. Was every day a breeze? No, far from it. But my heart rejoiced because it was growing, learning, and living. Every day, my grasp on who Jesus is and who I am expanded. And it continues to do so today.
The people you seen in these pictures are people that I call friends. They are just like you and I with real life stories and real life needs. Life in Croatia was a crazy beautiful adventure. My heart stirred in new ways. It was doing what it was created for. Katie Davis sums the experience up in a beautiful way, “ Every one of us was ultimately created to do the same thing. It will not look the same. It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.” This summer serving on a mission trip I was awake and my heart was alive.- Shannon Morris ❤️