We are so thankful to the Lord for the historic summer we had with GoStudents. In one year, we have doubled the number of students involved in our projects, going from 140 to 280 participants in 2018. These projects are impacting lostness and the lives of the students involved like never before. What are some things we’ve learned along the way? Here are five “takeaways” from this summer.
1. More Opportunities
Several years back, we sent large numbers of students to just one or two locations. This summer we’ve grown to 13 locations with multiple teams in many of those individual projects. This increased the number of participants involved, but at the same time made our groups smaller, which in turn gave each person a more indispensable role. It was less stressful on the missionaries we work with and made less noise in the places we need to fly under the radar.
Another benefit to having more locations is that it gives our Oklahoma students access to the world through a larger variety of projects and dates. Some of those projects are great for beginners, while others are good for the experienced who are ready to be challenged. There is a project suitable for everyone with dates and budgets that can work for just about any type of student.
2. Local Projects
The summer of 2018 was the first time we introduced Oklahoma projects to GoStudents. We spread out these projects across our state in three locations (Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Lawton). This allowed Middle School students to participate, and provided a great “first” mission trip experience.
It also removed two hurdles to getting students involved in a mission trip, which was money and parental permission. We offered scholarships to those who couldn’t afford the registration fee, and most of all, parents are comfortable sending their kids somewhere within our state.
The most important takeaway is that it let students know that missions can be right where we live, not just in faraway places. It’s also important to note that more people made professions of faith on our Oklahoma projects than any of the other locations.
There is no way we could grow GoStudents deep and wide without great ministry partnerships. It would also be irresponsible for us to work in places without them. The partners we work with minister to the people in their area year round, and we simply get to give them a boost in what they are doing once a year with our workers and resources.
These partners are missionaries, church planters and ministry leaders who set our teams up to serve in their areas in ways that move their ministries forward and share the Gospel. It’s also a huge blessing for our students to watch, get to know and serve alongside these amazing Kingdom leaders. If we want to raise up a generation to follow in their footsteps, this is one of the best ways to show them how.
4. Defining Success
An important thing we discuss with students before they go on one of our projects is what success looks like at their ministry location. Success looks different working with Muslims in Madrid than it does with Mayans in Belize. The results in Seattle, Wash. will be different than in Lawton, Okla.
When a student understands the culture, they can understand what success is on their trip and have a more fulfilling experience. In missions, some prepare the soil, others plant seeds, some water those seeds, and others reap a harvest (1 Cor. 3:8). When students understand that all of those roles make up one purpose, and they understand the season that the missionary is serving in, they can know what success looks like. They can be satisfied, whether 85 people get saved or no one makes a profession of faith on their project.
The most important takeaway from any mission trip is to be flexible. On just about all of our GoStudents projects we made plans but had to hold them loosely. Teams had to deal with date changes, travel problems, health issues, under or overestimating event turnouts and more. Preparing the students to have realistic expectations caused them to be thankful when things worked out and not surprised when they didn’t. Sounds like a great life lesson to me!
We are so thankful to the Lord for all the lives that were impacted in and through GoStudents participants this year. For many, it was a milestone that will shape their worldview and priorities for the rest of their lives. It is our prayer that we will get to continue to send out more and more students to engage the lost in our own state and around the world!