There exists this idea that when a person goes on a missions trip, that person is supposed to have at least one defining moment in which the heavens open up, God speaks in a booming voice, and his/her life is forever changed; however, this was not my experience.

On October 7, 2016, through the Amazing Grace Christian Foundation, I and two other women from my church joined with four other ladies from a church in Maryland and we departed for the Philippines—after months of prayer and preparation, our hearts were ready. Through the course of 10 days, we dove into six women’s outreaches in six regions, a youth event, a children’s outreach, an orphanage visit, and a whole lot of rice.

I was able to experience deep joy and to instantly form such strong connections with the most incredible people, but I also encountered a bit of something that I had not prepared myself for … something that I did not necessarily want to feel. I felt the pangs of grief over stories of the rampant drug use in Manila, the distrust that had formed between people and authorities as a result of a corrupt government, and the gnashing teeth of poverty like Americans could never even imagine. If I am honest, I spent a lot of the trip in anger and confusion: “How could God allow this to happen?” and “Where is Jesus in all of this anyway?” were just a couple of questions that rang loudly in my mind.

Yet, the thing that impacted me the most was the hospitality of the people. Some did not even have homes to open up to us, but I have never felt so welcomed into someone else’s presence; it didn’t hit me until after I returned to the States that that was how Jesus was present and active in the Philippines. After all, was Jesus not the most hospitable? Jesus did not have a home on Earth to invite people into, but He so graciously called sinners into the sphere of His love. I recognize now that I learned more about the friendly nature of Jesus in the span of 10 days through the Filipino people than I have learned over the course of 17 years in the American church. I say this, not as an intended jab at American Christians, but to acknowledge that sometimes God reveals himself in ways that we never expect in order to adjust the areas of our hearts that we never knew needed to be adjusted.

On my trip to the Philippines, my life was forever changed, but not by an individual, glorious “life-changing moment,” but by a compilation of smaller moments, through which God gently whispered and subtlety shifted my perspective, and I think that that is life-changing.

This article was written by Hannah Franklin, a 16-year-old who attends North Cleveland Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee. This is her firsthand story of a recent missions trip.