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Should I stay or should I go? the tension of short term mission trips

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

This guest post is by Kara Bergstrom. Director of Intercultural Studies at Columbia Bible College.

“It’s just so easy to stay home.”

This was a poignant phrase spoken to me recently by one of my students at the College where I teach. She is headed out tomorrow on a 1-year, for-credit cross-cultural internship in Vietnam. She’s never traveled internationally before. She’s never done anything like this before! And to top it off, she has a fear of flying.

Now that she’s zipping up her bulging backpack and gathering her travel documents, it’s all so real. Suddenly, she loves everything about home.

Family, friends, food… “I even realized I’ll miss my siblings!” she laughed.

“I love them so much.”

She’s right. It’s just so easy to stay home. It’s so tempting to lie on my couch in the air-conditioning on my phone and watch Netflix instead of chatting with my Sikh neighbours who are outside picking plums and pressure washing their driveway.

By nature, most of us like to stick to what’s familiar. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. We like comfort.

Should I stay or should I go now …

Taking a risk brings challenges and requires determination to stick it out for the long haul. There are so many life lessons to be learned from serving in a culture that’s not our own.

  1. Submitting to authority is a big one. We want to do things our own way! And our way feels right. Being willing to follow someone else’s vision takes character and resolve.

  2. Dealing with adversity calls for creativity and tenacity. On short term mission trips many of our supports and coping mechanisms are stripped from us. We need to dig deep in our faith and rely on the Spirit as comfort and guide.

  3. Living among others who have serious needs brings so many emotions to the surface. Knowledge is suffering. Compassion is painful. Our ability to hope is put to the test.

  4. We often make physical sacrifices when we risk moving out of our comfort zone. Although the social, emotional and spiritual toll is heavy. It’s in this place where we experience incredible intimacy with God.

Truth is … it’s just so easy to stay home, but have you ever heard of a couch as the setting for a lasting adventure.

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t grow a tonne from taking a risk!

It is easy to stay at home. What motivates you to go on short term mission trips?


Kara Bergstrom is  the Director of Intercultural Studies at Columbia Bible College. One of the best parts of her job is praying with students as they prepare to leave on internship and upon re-entry when they return from short term mission trips.

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