In part one of this series, I talked about graduation. In part 2, I wrote about what the students are doing with their degrees. This time, I’m reflecting on how I’ve changed as a person after being a part of the program during the last three years.

You cannot visit the places I have been and return as the same person. There is a transformation that happens as you get to know these people and their situation. There is a change in the way you think about God, the human situation, and about yourself. I have changed as a result of my visits various places. I like to think I’ve changed for the better.

How I’ve Changed

  • The way I think about freedom – Often, we take our freedoms for granted. Certainly, the USA is not a perfect place, but we do have freedoms that other people in other parts of the world would love to have. Independence Day is coming up. When I see the flag waving, I think differently now. In fact, last December, when I went to see the Miami Dolphins’ game with my Dad, I started to tear up as I heard the national anthem. I have changed.
  • The way I think about blessings – Blessings come in many different shapes and sizes. One thing is for sure, the blessings I have are given to me so that I can be a blessing to others. God blesses people with different kinds of blessings. I have learned to look at what I have instead of what I want (although that’s not always easy), and to count those as blessings.
  • The way I think about missions – There are many mission principles that change when you visit a country other than your own. I have learned that sometimes being flexible is much more than a thing we preach to short term mission teams. It’s something that sometimes we have to do as long term missionaries as we think about strategy, principles, and ministry actions. I have learned to adapt strategy to the context.
  • The way I think about ministry – Sometimes the best way to get a real look at struggles in ministry is to watch what others have to do in order to minister to their congregations and communities. I have seen and heard stories of ministers who have been persecuted because of their ministry. Suddenly, my struggles in ministry are not as invincible.
  • The way I think about sacrifice – Calling is a word we throw around in church and ministry conferences, but sometimes I wonder how much we really feel called to what we do. The people I have met are called to work with young people and to work in the church. They are not receiving any other “fringe benefits” like many of us do. It’s a calling thing. Calling in many contexts requires sacrifice. I have changed the way I look at my calling and what God has in store for me.

I’ve learned many other things, too. These are just a few of the many things that I have learned in my travels with the opportunities I have had. I feel fortunate to have learned things during the last three years. It has been an educational experience for me, too.

(Picture: Me on a street in Santa Clara)