Over 20 years ago I took flying lessons. The introductory lesson included a one-hour class before the flight on the principles of flight….sort of the basics of flying.

I loved airplanes.

I often went to our local airport to watch big jets land. I subscribed to flying magazines. I actually thought when I climbed in the left seat of the Cessna 152 for the first time that the instructor would just be amazed at my flying ability and my knowledge of this tiny bird. I was sure that I would just “ace” this flying thing.

It was just the opposite.

On an first flight the instructor took me to a good altitude and told me to keep the plane level. No first time flyer can do it and that included me! While I was looking out the window the instructor tapped me on the shoulder and then tapped the altimeter. It showed I was climbing at a good rate. I was supposed to be flying level! It was frustrating but motivating. I wanted to return and try again.

While I had the head knowledge, the practical experience was missing.

Mission trips, for me, compare in many ways to that experience of learning to fly.

Today more and more Christian schools are seeing the benefit of taking the classroom to the practical experience of a mission trip. Set against the backdrop of a knowledge base of the classroom, a mission trip can be the breakthrough that a Christian school is looking for in a student.

This past Spring we took a Christian school group of 60 to Guatemala. The team hand an incredible time with their teachers doing drama, serving at an orphanage, leading VBS, and playing a local high school basketball team.

Two senior girls on that team had been given an assignment to complete for a grade. They were to formulate a ministry outreach to orphans. I could tell the girls were well organized. They had a plan, steps to take for each team member who joined them at the orphanage. But the plan took a turn when the “paper” they were writing dropped from their head to their heart.

I saw these two young ladies become learners. They weren’t just asking the orphanage staff questions they needed answered for the paper they were writing, they needed to know the information to get through the day! Michael Frost, a theologian from Australia, says that attending a church service should be “on a need to know basis.” In other words, you need the content of a church gathering for the task ahead. This describes these girls exactly.

The two girls even invited one of the orphanage staff to come one night and talk to the group. They needed the content he would share for the work they would do the next day.

I haven’t gotten a copy of that paper, but can guess that it is nothing like the original outline!

The experience of a mission trip puts hands and feet to the to what is heard in the classroom.

Romans 12:1,2 comes to mind, that as we are transformed by the renewing of our mind we prove what the will of God is: good, acceptable and perfect.

I eventually got my pilots license and can now fly a plane level!