Disclaimer: I have never been on a mission trip, either local, domestic, or foreign.
I'm going to make a bold statement.
Short term mission trips are the Christian high.
Since I have never personally been on a mission trip of any sort, I am basing this opinion solely on the descriptions given by my many friends and acquaintances who have been on them. Words I've heard used repeatedly include "amazing," "incredible," "life changing," "transforming." They talk about the people they got to see converted, the testimonies of people who have so little, how much they felt led by God to go, how much they depended on God during the trip, how close they felt to God while they were there, how great the worship and prayer was. And often, how much they want to go back.
Mission trips, I believe, are valuable. They are worthwhile. They bless the people they serve, they bless the people who go, they make a difference. I'm not challenging that at all. I would like to go on one some day, with my teenage children.
But in all honesty, I think an equally difficult "calling" is to stay behind.
It's easy to give your testimony to strangers. Not that it doesn't take guts, not that your voice won't tremble or that you won't be nervous. But all those strangers know about you, is what you chose to tell them. They have no history with you. They have never had you cut them off in line, or heard you say something hurtful about someone else. They have no future with you. They won't see you next week chewing the cashier a new one because she overcharged you. They won't see your reaction to a neighbor complaining about your dog barking. They won't witness the cold anger when your spouse forgets to bring the ketchup to the picnic and the kids refuse to eat their burgers without ketchup.
It's easy to appear "spiritual" for a week or two. To spend time in prayer when you have morning and evening devotion time set aside. To follow God's leading for each day when you have no 9-5 job to go to, no kids to shuttle to school, no household maintenance to do. To help others when that is all you're there to do.
But when you're home... when you're in the day to day drudgery. That person in the parking lot that can't get their car to start. But you're running late to work because they never schedule enough workers and the person in front of you wrote a check for $4 and you just need to get there with your tray of donuts because you forgot it was your day to bring snacks to work and your wife is mad because you didn't mention this till 9:30 the night before.
That kid that is so loud and bouncing all over the place but you have so much patience with and so much love for because they have nothing and are in an orphanage and you're there to serve. But when you're home... and it's your kid. And they know better. They have so much. So many advantages. And they are on your last nerve. And they are angry because their pj's won't zip exactly right and they yank them off and throw them at you and the zipper hits you in the face. And you're tired, because you've battled this kid all day, and you just can't handle one more fit.
I'm not saying people who go on mission trips are awful people when they're home. Not at all. I do think it's important to realize that God has us in the here and now for a reason. I would love to go to an orphanage and love on some kids. But right now, I can't do that. It's not my time. I am to be here, loving on my own kids. And it's hard. It's SO hard to love on my kids right now. I'd rather go love on some under-privileged kid, because that'd be a vacation to me. But right now, I have a job to do, here.
I have a mission field in my own home. Because my kids watch my every move. They see my attitude. My love is how they understand the love of God. That is a very weighty task, to model the love of God, day in and day out. It'd be easier if I only had to put up with them a few weeks. But I am here for the long run. And it's tough. Think of how many hours a parent puts in, in exchange for the salvation of their children. The training, the discipling, the repentance prayer that reassures you but that you can't just rest in and say "well, they're saved now so I'm off the hook."
This day to day... it's not glamorous. It's not exciting. It's not exhilarating. No one really wants to hear about it. It doesn't give you that high, that feeling of "wow, I'm really making a difference here!" Or even a "wow, I'm so close to God right now, this is awesome!" Sometimes, maybe, you feel that way. But most of the time, you just live. You go about the mundane, because God has called you to the mundane. And you do it to the glory of God. Even when it doesn't feel like it.