God seems to love paradoxes. Lose your life to gain it. Serve Christ to find true freedom. A mission trip for missionaries?

In a traditional short-term mission trip, I often imagine matching, bright t-shirts and manual labor of some sort. But a mission trip to serve missionaries? More than one of us on the trip questioned what we could possibly provide to individuals who have decided to serve as missionaries long-term.

Three weeks ago, I participated in a missionary care trip to Budapest. The whole concept was to provide a week of respite and restoration for missionaries who spend most of their days serving others. It was a chance to build relationships and care for the missionaries participating in the retreat. As someone who works in a counseling field, I began to see the value in a trip specifically targeted at caring for individuals in the field full-time. It’s easy to think of individuals in ministry as super-human. Pastors never get mad at their kids, missionaries don’t need sleep, and youth ministers always enjoy spending their weekends with gangs of middle schoolers. The idea of serving missionaries can be intimidating. What do I have to offer them?

Turns out, missionaries are human too (shocking, I know). And as humans, we are called into community and relationship with other believers. If we continually pour ourselves out and never take the space to be filled, then we will run dry. As Jesus said to the woman at the well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again.” When I serve from my own well, my own abilities, I will thirst again. But Jesus continues, “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).

The real God paradox is that I entered the week hoping to love and serve the missionaries on the retreat—hoping to pour myself out for them. Instead, I found myself walking away loved, served, and filled to the brim. God does something beautiful when He brings his children together. We not only are filled when we commune with God, but when we commune with each other. Walls break down quicker, vulnerability seems less daunting, and you find yourself on a rooftop in Budapest sharing your story with a girl from Indiana serving in Budapest and a girl from Texas serving in Iraq.

This week, I was reminded of the importance of retreat and rest. The importance of getting away from reality for a bit, and dedicating a week for intentional time with God and His people. For me, this week brought me friendships, showed me areas of my spiritual life that need growth, pushed me to share parts of my story with others, and allowed me to listen and walk with new friends in their journey with the Lord.

Here is what I know: God is a beautiful artist who weaves together stories and provides the words you need to hear, when you need to hear them. He puts the right person next to you on the metro or at dinner or during an intense game of Exploding Kittens and provides the right moments for the right conversations. You just need to show up.

To quote one of the missionaries on the retreat, the week was “a breath of fresh air.” We didn’t need to be the wisest or holiest or most scripture quoting person in the room to serve the missionaries on the retreat. We just needed to be there. There to listen, there to engage, there to be vulnerable and honest and real. God does the rest.

To the missionaries on the retreat, you have blessed me more than you realized and I am so grateful for the ways you allowed me into your lives for the week.

– By Jordan Ezell, Crosspoint Volunteer