When planning a short-term mission trip, many stick with a week or two — not nine months.
Rissa Martin, 19, of Stuarts Draft just returned from a nine month mission trip to Guatemala, Thailand, Myanmar and Swaziland.
Martin, is a 2018 graduate of Stuarts Draft High School, has lived in the Valley her entire life and attends Greenmonte Mennonite Church.
“I have grown up in the church my whole life,” said Martin, 19, of how she first became interested in mission work. “When I was 12, I went on a mission trip to Zambia with my family for two weeks. There is where I knew I was in my element. I thrived in the culture and absolutely loved getting to serve and know people of a different part of the world.”
Martin said she saw horrific things that changed her, touched her heart and gave her a passion for making a difference.
With this trip, Martin traveled with World Race, a Christian mission trip organization. She attended the nine-month gap year program for people ages 18-20 with 49 others from all over the country.
“Being gone for nine months was really hard,” she said. “I missed the birth of my first niece, lots of birthdays, family trips and more. All that considered, I was loving my life and truly thriving in what I was doing, which made it a lot easier to miss out on those things.”
Martin started with three months in Guatemala, a month in Thailand, a month in Myanmar, another month in Thailand and finished with three months in Swaziland. She worked with children, taught English, performed house visits, visited churches and more.
“My favorite place was Thailand,” she said. “I loved the culture and the people, but it was because of my ministry there during our second month that I really loved it. We worked in Agape Home — an orphanage for kids with HIV. I fell in love with a little 3-year-old boy who was glued to me during our month there.”
In Guatemala, they visited with a woman almost each day and treated a deep infection on her leg. Martin fondly remembered the food the woman made them, the laughs, good times and the woman calling herself their “Guatemala abuela,” or Guatemala grandma.
“To be making a difference was everything,” Martin said. “It gave my life purpose and it confirmed to me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be — where I was called to be. I had wanted to go back out into the world helping people since I was 12 so to be able to get to do that again was the best feeling.”
Martin said it was hard to put everything she learned from the experience into words.
“I feel like one of the biggest things was to listen for the Lord’s voice and always have a ‘yes’ in my spirit when it comes to what he asks me to do,” she said. “I learned how to sacrifice things in my life, whether good or bad, in order to follow the plan the Lord has put out before me.”
In addition to the ministry work, Martin had adventures she’ll remember for a lifetime. She hiked the volcano Acatenango in Guatemala, went Paragliding, gave elephants a bath, and let go of lanterns on New Year’s Eve in Thailand.
As for what’s next, Martin said nothing is set in stone.
“My plan for now is to head back to Thailand in the fall either to attend a discipleship school through Empower International, or head back to the orphanage I worked in,” she said. “It was a shock to me that Thailand was my favorite place, but now that I’m home I know my heart is still there and I’m excited to go back.”