Why should I, as an individual volunteer, go on a mission trip? Why should a pastor encourage his church members to participate in a servant event? What are the benefits? At the recent Lutheran Indian Ministries staff retreat, Pastor Mark Schumm of Zion Lutheran Church, Oneida, Wisconsin, shared his thoughts about his church’s experience and their trip to Minto, Alaska, last summer. Based on their experience, he is able to reflect on these very questions.
Six members from Zion traveled to Fairbanks, stayed with the Sternbecks at the volunteer center, interacted with other teams and served in Minto. Some of the benefits Pastor Schumm observed include why people should go on mission trips.
- Group growth. Mission trips help church members develop relationships with one another.
- Personal growth. People are pushed out of their comfort zone and often look back and say, joyfully, “I didn’t think I could.”
- Learning experience. People experience a culture different from their own.
- Spiritual awareness. Volunteers see how churches differ when it reflects one’s culture through worship, music and prayers.
- Volunteers serve. Serve with open hands and open hearts.
- Volunteers cultivate relationships. By developing friendships with Native men, women and children in the villages, volunteers are encouraged to share and grow in their own faith.
As Pastor Schumm shared during the retreat, he would like to see one or two Native men on this year’s servant team, although he acknowledges there are obstacles that his Native church members need to overcome to make such a trip. As he affirmed the Oneida culture, the rest of us were reminded that we can learn something from the Oneida, rather than simply learn about them.
Rev. Mark Schumm serves at Zion Lutheran Church in Oneida, Wisconsin, established in 1924. His church membership reflects the community demographics: 70 percent Caucasian and 30 percent Native. The Oneida Singers are an integral part of the community and sing at funerals and church gatherings, including worship. They help keep their language alive by teaching the congregation old familiar Christian hymns and the Lord’s Prayer.
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