More Than a Feeling


By Chris McKenna

It was hour six of a very recent 11-hour summer mission trip van ride when a student handed me his iPhone and requested I play the next track. I was overwhelmed with college nostalgia as the smooth sound of Boston’s “More than a Feeling” filled our ears. My first thought was, “How does he even know this song?” And then my second thought…”Boy, I hope this becomes the theme song for our mission trip experience.”

Trips like the one I’m experiencing while I type this blog post are exhausting for youth pastors and their families. The food is average, the sleeping quarters are seldom air conditioned, and bedtime is a nightly struggle as waves of giggles infect guys and girls alike while they share jokes, noises, and stories from the day.

But, year after year, God shows me why these trips are necessary. It’s because, after the discomfort, students tend to go home seeing their comforts differently. It’s because, in the hot, close, sleeping quarters, relationships are accelerated in ways unlike anything we can accomplish in “normal” ministry at home. It’s because, when that one little boy from the Kids Club colors me a picture, I’m reminded that Jesus is using little old me in His story.

Ephesians 1:18 says, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭1‬:‭18‬ NLT)

Summer mission trip experiences flood dry, dusty student hearts. They create collisions with God’s Spirit in ways our sermons at home cannot.

When I told my connections on Facebook that I was leaving for my trip, I received the following note from a former student named Alice, who was on my first summer mission trip, 15 years ago. “My first missions trip changed me forever and set me off to where I am today, so I am always excited in anticipation for what God will do in the communities, and also in the hearts of the young people!”

For Alice, it WAS more than a feeling and I’m praying it will be the same for my middle school kids this week.