The Value of Immersion Experiences…
This is my article from our February newsletter.
The Value of Immersion Experiences in Faith
Pastor Brian Wallace
My senior year of college I was a part of a housing group (similar in concept to a fraternity) at Grove City. Like many college seniors we wanted to go south for spring break and escape to some warmer weather. As we kicked around some ideas I suggested that we look to turn our trip south into a mission trip which would give us the chance to raise funds for the trip instead of having to pay for it ourselves (admittedly, not the best rationale). In the end, we went off to Charleston, SC to work with Habitat for Humanity for a week with 23 college-age guys and we had a great week. Unfortunately, that was my first mission trip ever. Since then I’ve been on a few more in seminary (The Dominican Republic and Gulf Coast post-Katrina) and many more since arriving at HPC (this summer will be my 12th and 13th mission trip since arriving at HPC). In addition to mission trips I spent a lot of time on retreats each year – Jr. High, Sr. High, 30 Hour Famine, and Confirmation retreats are annual events on our youth ministry calendar. But if I’m honest, these events take up a ton of my time and energy – and they cost a lot of money! So what is the value?
“Immersions experiences” like mission trips and retreats are valuable for a number of reasons, but two stand out (1) They develop a sense of belonging (2) They take us away from what is normal. When you go on a mission trip or a retreat you spend a lot of time together – in fact, you’re together for at least 16 hours each and every day. You share meals together and go through new experiences together. This helps bond the members of the group to one another. In my experience in working with youth I always find that after a mission trip or a retreat I feel like I actually know a student, regardless of how long I’ve known them. All of this really contributes to a person feeling like they belong within a community simply because they feel like there are other people in the community who they know and know well. In my experience, nothing has the power to break down boundaries (for example, going to different schools) like going on a mission trip or retreat together.
The second reason that mission trips and retreats are so valuable is that they take us out of what is normal. Our lives tend to be dominated by the normal everyday items of life: work/school, family, activities, etc. Usually we only spend a very limited amount of time (really a matter of a few hours a week) focused on our faith and our faith community. Retreats and mission trips allow us to break out of our normal cycle for a few days and focus on building those relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as deepening our relationship with God. I know personally I value retreats because I leave feeling refreshed in my faith and more focused on what I need to be working on in the months ahead.
While mission trips and retreats require us to step out into a new experience the value of them is tremendous as they allow us to experience a sense of belonging and provide an opportunity to focus on our faith in a way that is unparalleled.