In 1999, while I was a student at Marshall University in WV, I was invited to go on a mission trip with a group of friends. I had been on a couple of mission trips before, and I had really enjoyed them. When this opportunity to go on a basketball mission trip to the Dominican Republic was presented, I had all of the information that I needed. Travel with my friends to the Caribbean to play my favorite sport? Sign me up! As the trip grew closer, I began praying for the Lord to use this trip in my life. I was asking the Lord to grow me, change me, use me, and teach me something new. Little did I know that this mission trip would change the directory of my entire life.
You see, I grew up in church. I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior at age 7 and had been faithfully attending my local church ever since. In high school, I was a leader in my youth group. While at Marshall University, I was the President of our Bible club, Campus Light. It’s not as if walking with God and serving Him were foreign to me. But somehow in my mind, I had relegated missions to something that some “upper class” of Christians were called to do on a full-time basis. I was just a kid from small town WV who had attended public school his whole life. I was a college student working on a marketing degree. Who was I in terms of someone who could faithfully serve the Lord in ministry? Well, the mission trip experience that I had gave me answers to that question and changed my life forever.
On the first full day of our mission trip, the founder of SCORE International, Ron Bishop, shared a brief devotional message with our group. He shared from Philippians 3:13-14. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Ron’s challenge to each of us was to keep pressing and get everything out of this mission trip that we possibly could. He told us to pray and ask God to show us the specific reason that the Lord brought us here to the Dominican Republic. I still have my journal with notes from that message. It definitely resonated with me.
Over the course of the weeklong mission trip, the Lord did some amazing things in the lives of our group. We played lots of basketball games, and had fun doing that. In the bigger picture, the Lord was showing me how simple things like sports could be a platform to share the Gospel. It was like a light bulb went off in my brain. The Lord was saying to me, “look Trey, I can use a random group of guys from WV to come to the DR to share the Gospel so that people can come to know Me. It’s not about talent or skill, it’s about faithfulness and obedience.” The Lord planted a seed in my heart that He could use a person like me to serve Him in a big way (although I felt unworthy and unprepared to do so). For the first time in my life, I didn’t think that missions had to be done by just the “super Christians.” I began to understand that missions is a calling that every single Believer has been mandated to be a part of. And for the first time in my life, I began to pray about putting my “yes” on the table.
When I returned home to WV after that weeklong mission trip, the passion was still burning inside of me to stay involved. I called the SCORE International office and spoke to Ron Bishop about my experience and how I felt led to do more. He encouraged me to pray about an internship in the Dominican Republic for the following summer. I agreed to pray about it, and that prayer became a reality. In the summer of 2000, I spent 3 months serving on an internship in the DR with SCORE. It was during that internship that the Lord placed a calling on my life to serve Him in a full-time capacity as a missionary with SCORE. There was no audible voice from God, and no thunder and lightning. I distinctly recall Him leading me through my devotional reading and prayer time that He was calling me to serve Him for the rest of my life. I fully surrendered to that calling, and I have never looked back.
As I sit here today, some 20 years later, it amazes me how that one mission trip to the Dominican changed my life. God changed my life. And now I spend every day of my life encouraging others to go on mission trips because I know that God can use a mission trip experience to change their life, too.