An Educator’s Dream
“Yes! I would be happy to,” I said in response to Mitzi’s request for a donation to the school’s mission trip.
“Really?” She seemed surprised at my quick response.
“Of course! It is my pleasure to help you go on this mission trip.” As a former missionary who served 12 years in the mission field, it is indeed my pleasure to see my students excited about participating in a mission trip—even if they are a high school senior and it’s their fourth trip.
As an educator, not only do I teach in my subject area, but I also desire for my students to experience God in every way possible on an Adventist academy campus—especially through mission trips. The benefits of being part of a mission trip are numerous for students. There are things we teach in the classroom that are reflected in service through mission work: empathy, teamwork, life choices and spiritual growth.
Throughout the New Testament, we read that Jesus had compassion for the people He met daily. For a student who is stressed by homework and daily life in a first-world country, compassion may not be a frequent occurrence. But send that same student on a mission trip, whether national or international, and they see the struggles of people who just need the basics: food, water, shelter. Morgan Wolzen, a 2020 graduate of Ozark Adventist Academy (OAA), says, “Mission trips opened my eyes to what exists beyond my ‘Adventist bubble.’”
Educators include group work in their classroom to facilitate working as part of a team. Mission trips do the same. Whether coordinating a Vacation Bible School, evangelistic series or building project, the team members have to work together to accomplish their goal. Derek Timms, current Religion teacher at OAA and 2005 graduate, participated in building a church in Mexico. Since his team was mainly OAA students, they already knew how to work together, and they were able to have church in the church they built the last Sabbath of the trip. Timms says, “We got to see what ‘Be Strong in the Lord’ meant to the faces of the people of Cleneguillas, Nuevo Leon.”
High school is a time where students often discover their career choice. Mission trips can alter this choice or define it. After graduating from OAA, Timms went on to serve as a student missionary in Norway and Ethiopia. Upon returning to college, he told his academic advisor “to sign me up for whatever it’s called that helps people learn more about the Bible.” Those experiences as a student missionary led Timms to choose a career as a Bible teacher. Jake Krein, a 2016 graduate of OAA, had a similar experience. While on school mission trips, he faced new places, new faces and new challenges, which drew him to education. Krein is now the science teacher at OAA. While not everyone will choose education after being on a mission trip, it often creates a “heart for service,” as Krein said. And that's what we desire in our students.
The Adventist academy experience is education and spiritual growth. As teachers, we desire for our students to have the opportunity to grow spiritually while on our campus. While this is a different experience for each student, academies do provide opportunities for a personal relationship with God to develop. One of these opportunities is through mission trips.
Wolzen felt that her spiritual life was on a higher level when she returned home from a mission trip. “When I am serving and doing what I can for others is when I feel most connected to Jesus,” she says.
Each student has their own experience. Timms felt that he didn’t change spiritually from the mission trip, but “it changed everything else in my life, and those influences changed my spiritual life.”
Spiritual growth often happens when a student returns from the mission trip. This is why Adventist academies have worship services, Bible classes, community service, small group studies and encourage personal devotional time. It is important to have these in place to help a student maintain that spiritual high from a mission trip.
Krein believes that he grew spiritually because of personal reflection. He says, “It’s a hard thing to get in front of people and deliver a message. Naturally, a person might not think themself to be ‘worthy’ or ‘good enough.’” After these mission trips, Krein often found himself experiencing internal scrutiny, as he put it. “I asked myself hard questions about my spiritual life, and didn’t always like the answers. In the end, those honest and ugly answers really helped me grow.”
Mission trips and education go hand-in-hand. After all, it is why we teachers teach—we desire to see our students succeed in all aspects of their journey on this earth.
By Markie Bazzy, Ozark Adventist Academy English and Drama Teacher