In 1998 I decided to take a mission trip. It was the trip of my life and changed my life forever--and still has a changing affect on it!
Number one, a mission trip changes your perception of the world giving you a more resolute understanding of your place in the world and the validity of other people and their place in the world--culturally. My mission trip was to South Africa. The first thing I learned when I stepped of the plane is that Africans are civilized! I was able to immedicatlely clear up my misconceptions internally; because in my mind I knew the people in Africa did not all run around in loin cloths, but I did not know it in my heart.
Number two; you gain an understanding of happiness that you did not believe that you could attain. I saw how some of the South Africans lived--in shanties and shacks. My heart fell to my stomach and I ached at the living condition of the people. As I visited and taught the people about Christ though, I saw that they could be happy in poverty because of their faith. It rubbed off on me because as a missionary I was poor also. I learned to be happy no matter my circumstance because I create that happiness.
Number three; you learn to love the people as you love yourself. The greatest gift that God can give is the gift of Charity which is the pure love of Christ--which means that you are willing to offer your life in service or by death to the people that you love. I have charity for the South African and a love for the country that is God-like in nature though I am only a person.
Number four, you never forget the experience and you can apply it to your life and refer to it in times of stress. My mission has helped me to remember that I can do all things with heaven on my side. It has also allowed me to know that I may not change the situation, but I can change how I approach it and feel about.
Number five, my mission has given me a love for God that I cannot describe! I know that He lives and that I represented him for the time and it felt good! I am anchored in my faith in God through Christ Jesus--and not because I want to convert the world. I am anchored because through my faith in Christ and his example, I can love people of whatever faith they are, and just as the are, whether they believe as I do or not. Serve a mission and you will be a better person.