Mission Discovery is proud to know some amazing missionaries who have volunteered on several domestic and international mission trips with us. This week we’ll meet Joel Schnell, pictured above. Joel is one of our most frequent mission trip volunteers and he loves to talk about his experiences with Mission Discovery.

Q: How and when did you first hear about Mission Discovery?

A: It was in 2000 when my wife Tasha and a group of ladies from our church took a trip to Jamaica with Mission Discovery. Then the next year we led a group of youth to the Bahamas.

Q: Describe your first mission trip experience with Mission Discovery.

A: It was great. We served in Nassau, Bahamas. It was so amazing to witness how God was at work and we had the privilege to come alongside His work and serve. Mission Discovery made it possible.

Q: What did you do as a volunteer abroad? Did you have any particular skills to share?

A: We worked at an orphanage. We painted and we taught VBS and just played with the children. I am good with people and know construction, so it was a week of fixing minor issues with the buildings, painting and sharing God’s love with the children.

Q: Any other Mission Discovery trips you’ve been on?

A: Well yes – I have had the opportunity to lead a number of domestic and international mission trips. I’ve led youth groups in JamaicaMexicoBahamasNew YorkMississippi, and Virginia.

Q: What were some of the most valuable lessons you gained from your mission work?

A: Oh so many… but a few would be that God is at work everywhere and that we sometimes need to GO out and serve to learn to come home and serve. We are as blessed or even more blessed by serving, than the people we go to help. A bond of unity is always formed in a group of people when you go and serve those in need together.

Q: Any tips/advice for first time mission trip participants?

A: Be prepared, physically and spiritually, but also be open to the direction of God’s will in your day – step out and let Him work in and through your group.

Q: As a youth pastor, how do you prepare your group before a mission trip?

A: I like to get the team to start preparing spiritually a few weeks before the trip, by spending time in prayer for those we will serve as well as the whole team. We spend time in God’s word getting our hearts ready for whatever He has planned for us. I pass out prayer cards with a name of another team member to start praying for before and during the trip and we reveal to one another at the end of the trip who we have been praying for. I push for flexibility and a willingness to allow the Spirit to lead. I treat a Mission Discovery mission trip as a training bootcamp to really prepare us for a lifelong mission trip back in our everyday lives in our own worlds. I like to push my students into an uncomfortable mission situation to help them see and rely on the power of God to help them through future tough times. I also like to help them keep their mission experience fresh and real well after we return home.

Joel is a youth pastor at Trinity Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa. He has been in youth ministry for 14 years. Joel has been married to his wife Tasha for over 18 years and is the proud father of three great kids.