There is an underlying theme in all mission trips of not just Jesus, of not just mission, but of girls… and boys.
It all starts when the list comes out.
Immediately, single team members rush to their facebook pages and begin the process of facebook stalking prospective future teammates. To see if their desire may be to drop the word team from the word teammate.
I’m not saying I know this because I do it. That would be inappropriate for me as a leader of these trips. I am saying I know this because maybe I used to do this too, maybe.
As profiles are being searched, judgments are being made. Thoughts are being processed. And prayers are being offered up.
By the time the trip starts, the chatter is in full force. Stereotypes are being made. And games are being played. Marry, Kiss, or Cliff. You tell me.
Pockets begin forming. Girls and boys begin pairing off. And soon you have the same two people pairing off 14 times a day thinking it to be unnoticeable to the rest of the team, who sneers in the background, “can you believe those two?!…can’t they just wait a week!”
Well, soon, the girls are staking claims on guys. They (not the ones reading this blog) mark their boy like a dog marks its territory. Making sure they are always close to him and at his beckon call (can I help you today? how can I serve you? how was your quiet time? did God speak to you this morning? would you like a piece of gum? granola bar? I brought an extra banana for you.) so the other girls know “he is mine and keep your paws off,” meanwhile… the young fella is wondering how he is supposed to get to know the other girl on the team that he has set his sights on since the first team meeting (when he smoothly entered into conversation around her likes on facebook all the while she was wondering how this guy seemed to know her so well).
Then the set ups begin. Everyone has figured out who should be with who and opinions begin racing in. Fellow team members have their opinions. The married ones have theirs. The single ones from a totally different perspective. And the leaders and locals love to chime in too.
The fellow singles usually have the lamest opinions… Single Person A: “I think you would be perfect with her!” Single Person B: “You’re single…Why don’t you ask her out then?” Single Person A: “Oh, she’s not for me…. But she would be great with you!”
Married people usually have a fair perspective due to not being involved in the pool of singleness yet one must be leery. I have become highly aware that married people don’t like their single friends being single so you have to be a little careful about them trying to get you married off without a proper investment into your future. Unless they plan on taking real steps, such as a McMingle, don’t trust them.
Leaders can have pretty poor opinions as well. Theirs often comes from the perspective of “I am in charge and I’m older so obviously I know what is best.” What that usually means is, “You kids are so on fire for God nowadays. I wasn’t walking with God when I was younger so whenever I see any two young believers together, they just look perfect!…every time.”
And even the locals have their notice. In some cultures marriage is held awfully, awfully high. As in very, very high. As in, if you aren’t married by the time you are 18, there must be a problem. And if you have been married for 9 months and 2 weeks, and are yet to have kids, there also must be something wrong. If the locals aren’t interested in marrying you themselves, they will be sure to let you know which teammate you should make your companion. Or rather than an opinion, maybe you’ll just receive a prayer. I had a Pastor tell me that he was praying that “there would be a special delivery from heaven and that God would open my eyes to see that person and that God would bless me by bringing that special guy into my life.” Hmm…. I appreciate the heart behind it. I’ll receive that and chalk up the rest to a language barrier.
Guys and girls get attracted to each other on mission trips. Its not bad at all. In fact, I think it’s a great place for people to meet people. You obviously share passions and character traits. But it can be misleading. Everyone’s on their best behavior. Girls are serving (did you see her in the kitchen today? how about when she cleaned up after everyone? she’s the perfect mixture of Martha and Mary). Boys are loving and playing with children (did you see how he held that baby? my heart melted. and when he picked up that little girl? Oh my, I can already picture our family of 17. We will live in a village and adopt kids of every kind). And everyone’s reading their Bibles and praying sweet prayers.
It’s a beautiful thing. But it’s also misleading for the reasons above. One must use discernment and wisdom…and patience.
When you come back next week, I will give you some of the signs to look for and the stereotypical figures you will find on your mission trips. It’s like the “Secrets Behind…” series as you discover how magic happens and if wrestling is real or fake. Only here, you can discover what that boy is really thinking. What games those girls are really playing.
Do people go on mission trips for Jesus or to meet girls and boys?
The answer is Jesus. It’s not a trick question. But meeting girls and boys is a byproduct. I’d like to say I am immune to such “mission fever” but my dating resume would suggest otherwise.
I asked a married teammate/leader if they knew what the girls and boys were talking about at night. She was clueless and somewhat surprised. Oftentimes, leaders are oblivious to what’s really happening… because they are married. But I happen to straddle both sides of leadership and singleness. I’m not only hearing what is really going on. I’m involved. Oh yes, God help me.
(Editor’s Note: These are all stereotypes and do not hold true to all mission trips or to the one I was currently on. Exaggerations are used heavily for the purposes of exaggeration. So don’t get too offended yet, next week’s column will be worse.)