By John Franklin
From the outside looking in, the trajectory of my life looks rather straight forward. I grew up in a ministry family in the PCA. My parents worked in youth ministry in the PCA for nearly 30 years and they now serve with Wycliffe Bible Translators. You could say that the PCA and a life of full-time vocational ministry is in my blood. My grandfather, Ed Robeson, was one of the concerned Presbyterians who helped in the forming of the PCA in 1973. He then served as the first full-time administrator at Ridge Haven. On the other side, my paternal grandparents, Dean and Edith Franklin, served as missionaries to the West Indies for 50 years.
For crying out loud! I majored in Christian Ministry at Bryan College. How could I possibly not know that God was calling me to ministry? Well, that’s a conversation for another time. That said, a call to ministry is no more a genetic predisposition than it is determined by an undergraduate degree. No, it is a calling from God. Did he use my families love for ministry and the PCA as a significant influence in that calling? Absolutely! We serve a mighty God who strategically piece-meals our lives in a sovereign way that only he can explain. He used my family, my PCA bloodline, my sin struggles, my sanctification, my undergraduate degree, my friends and mentors, as a means of continually confirming my call to ministry. When you combine all of these beautiful and very ugly aspects of life… voilé! You get (rather God does) a PCA pastor with an undeniable call to the Gospel ministry.
So, what’s my point? Throughout my life, God needed to shape me, to mold me, and to sanctify my desires as he continued to prepare me for ordination. He did that through many pieces in my life. One of those significant pieces was short-term mission trips. I can honestly say that I am a PCA pastor today in large part because of my exposure to short-term missions during my growing up years. You see, in middle school and high school my posse was my youth group. We did everything together, we studied the Bible, laughed, played, figured out strange high school relationships, watched movies, played ultimate frisbee in the dark, hung out, enjoyed countless beach trips, laughed some more, and even went on many mission trips together. In fact, from age 10 until the summer where I started seminary at RTS in Charlotte, I was involved in both international and domestic mission trips including, but not limited to, West Virginia, Belize, Ecuador, Iowa, Minnesota, and Mississippi. If you want to know the nuts and bolts of how to a run an effective short-term trip just ask our fearless leader (my dad, Keith “the count” Franklin) how he did it.
I learned so much through these trips. You need to understand that I have the handy man skills of a duck. God’s given me many abilities, but construction is most certainly not at the top of the list. And yet, I’ll say it again. I learned a lot through these trips. I learned how to shingle a roof, which means I learned how to use a nail gun. I learned how to hammer nails, shovel dirt, cut grass with a machete, pour concrete, lay a flat roof with cinder blocks and rebar, frame a house, paint, shovel lots more dirt, and to always measure twice and cut once.
On a deeper level, it was through these trips that the Lord taught me much about myself and how he was going to use me for His work. It was through short-term missions that the Lord showed me that I actually had teaching gifts. He showed me how to serve the least of these. He taught me how to be gumby flexible and put the needs of others before myself. It was through short-term missions that, for the first time, the Lord truly gave me a global perspective of His kingdom. There are few things more beautiful in this world than being able to worship the triune God with brothers and sisters with whom you can hardly even communicate due to the language barrier. Through these events I found that my love for the global church only further increased my love for the local Church. He opened my eyes to see that His bride was bigger than my own backyard. Through these trips, I was given the opportunity to be taught what servant leadership actually looks like as I was equipped for the work of the ministry (Phil. 4:12). through sharing the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude1.3). I was reminded time and time again that the mission field is anywhere a Christian lives daily life, but it was through short-term trips that I was emboldened with zeal to be involved in evangelism and to strike up Gospel conversations with complete strangers. Short-term missions was a key ingredient the Lord used in my formative years to give me a Kingdom perspective as He shaped my soul in preparation for a life of ministry in the local church.