One of the best things you can do for your teenage children is to get them on a mission trip. I believe it is worth whatever sacrifice you may need to make for that to happen. 8 of our 11 children have been on a mission trips with our church, while our oldest went to Uganda when in college, one son served in Iraq in the Marine corps, and one son lived in Germany. All of them have had life altering experiences by experiencing other countries and cultures.
Here are a few things mission trips do for young people:
1. It broadens their perspective on the world. When my kids got out of their corner of western Pa, their eyes were open to how people who have very little can be so happy. When you experience a Haitian village where people live in homes made of tin, or pallets, have outdoor toileting, and may eat 1-2 meals a day, this grows compassion toward others. When you realize your shed in your backyard is the size of some people’s homes in a poor country, it changes the way you see your life.
2. It gets kids out of their comfort zone. When the young people have to paint houses, play with children, help with songs and VBS, help older people get glasses for the first time, and take cold showers at the compound, these things help to grow them up. It puts them in a situation where they have to give to others, and it gets them out of their self absorption. Our culture is good at producing teens who are self absorbed.
3. They meet people from other youth groups and sometimes make life long friends with people from other areas of the country. Centered around a common task, they grow closer by working together to complete projects like laying bricks or building a church. My daughter Hannah went to Mexico and built a home for a family in a week. The team grew very close during that week focused on a single task requiring people to encourage each other and work together. Then at the end of the week to meet the family who would live there, and the joy it brought them, left a lasting impact on her.
4. It matures young people to be on a mission trip. Its empowering to know that you can do hard things. Teens bring their energy and their exuberance to mission trips, and that is contagious. Plus they go back to their home churches with a passion for the poor and needy. They get a missional vision for Christ’s work in this world and want to be a part of it. Getting a global perspective is a maturing experience.
5. If Mission Trips are done right, a young person can have a deep interaction with God. It can help them realize God’s love for them, and that God has a purpose for their lives. Many teens look to mission trips as the time they dedicated their lives to Christ, and His call on their lives. It can be a deeply significant experience.
6. Even if my kids don’t become missionaries themselves, because of their experiences, they have a vision for Christ’s work in the world at home and abroad. As they’ve become financially able, they support the missionary endeavors themselves. That, dear friends, is how we multiply ourselves. May God be glorified as we seek to raise our children with a global perspective for Christ’s work in the world.
Please share if your kids have been on mission trips and what benefits, if any, you’ve seen.