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Wednesday
Jun242009

Why Youth Should Go On Mission Trips

When Caleb was 10 years old, he went on his first mission trip to Mexico. When he turned 13, we took him on his second mission trip to the Dominican Republic. These were not cute choir tours staying in plush hotels, these were going into the heart of third world communities staying in subpar housing and ministering to a severely under resourced people group.

It forever changed his world. I would tell him, until I was blue in the face, that while electronic games are fine but they should not define his life. He did not believe me until we worked side by side in social justice. It affected his approach to material things, it affected his attitude about people, it affected his understanding of God and spirituality, it affected his values, and the list goes on. On a one-week trip he would grow up in ways that I have not seen many middle age people achieve. Honestly, it is quite possible one of the smartest investments you can make is to take your kid on a mission trip.

But wait, there’s more! :-) What a youth gains is only half the story. They give in ways that adults cannot, sometimes youth can give even more. For example, this summer my wife and I are taking both of my boys (Caleb is now 16 and Levi is 11) on a church mission trip to a squatter’s community of Dominican Republic called Santa Rosa. The purpose of the trip is to help a school get started and we will be running teacher workshops, as well as taking single moms on a retreat and minister to them. Besides us three, all of the participants from the church will be women. So what in the world will my kids bring to the picture? A whole lot actually. Besides manual labor of fixing the school up, while seminars are going on, they can do more ministry to the community children than I ever can. Children and youth have a universal language of “play”. Not only will their engaging with the children free up the Dominican teachers to attend the seminars, these kids become far more open to being ministered to when it comes from a youth. Furthermore, we minister to the missionary’s family when their kids can connect with kids from back home. Honestly, beyond manual labor and leadership, all I bring is bringing safety as I guide our women from place to place. My kids, they will achieve more ministry than I will. Of course my older son will be giving up a weeks pay at his summer job and my younger son will be longing for the comforts of what we call “normal”. They will both sacrifice a lot to go and may not always be loving it while they are there, but they will thank mom and dad in the end.

An extra thought, if you spend a week in a third world environment, build in some R&R. For example I have been to the Dominican Republic multiple times and I have seen very little of the beauty of the island. This time we are adding four or five extra days to vacation with the missionary family, since we are already there. After all, when you go on a business trip, would you feel bad tacking a few extra vacation days if you had vacation coming to you anyway? It is an emotionally challenging way to spend a week. In some ways your family will be energized and in other ways they will be wiped out from the emotional overload from serving in such an intense environment. Take a few days to have fun together and use it as a teaching time as you debrief about what you have learned. Obviously you should not go on a trip such as this as an excuse to vacation, but a little added vacation would be a good and smart use of your time.

If it were up to me, every family in America would be required to take one family mission trip together. It would change the world.