Foreign missionaries were regular guests at the church I attended during my childhood and teen years. I remember looking forward to not having to hear a sermon from the preacher when the missionary would instead fill the hour with a slide presentation,(photographic images projected on a screen for those too young to know), testimony, and perhaps a display of artifacts and clothing from the culture of which the missionary served. One of our former pastors had become a missionary to an African country, and he was a regular guest when he would be home on furlough.
I found the presentations intriguing and the artifacts interesting to look at and to hold, but the information would soon leave my mind as I would return to the daily concerns of school, hanging out with friends and playing basketball. Although missions would be addressed in Sunday school and Royal Ambassadors, the subject would rarely cross my mind until the next missionary guest would visit and make a presentation. I am sure those missionaries were doing wonderful things on the mission field, people were being served and the Gospel was being preached, but their presentations, although interesting, were not enough to inspire me to become involved in
Many years later, I responded to a call to ministry. I wasn’t sure in what kind of ministry God wanted me to serve, but mission work was an option. I eventually found myself serving at this church as Minister of Education and Youth. I found out from a local ministry about a mission trip opportunity, so I took the youth group to serve in rural Kentucky in 1994. At thirty-one years old, this was the first
of many mission trips of which I would organize and participate. I was unaware of such an opportunity when I was a teen, and I am sure that teen mission trips were rare at that time.
Twenty-one years later, I am still taking our youth group on mission trips each summer. These trips provide a valuable learning experience for our youth. The ministries with whom we partner at various locations each year, rely on groups like ours to assist in building projects, assisting the elderly and needy, and running summer children’s programs. Many of our teens continue to serve in these ways in their own communities as they reach adulthood. A few have also been called to the mission field over the years. Perhaps mission trip experiences as teens helped open their hearts to be called to more challenging opportunities.
I am thankful for our church and your support for youth mission trips. You may even have an opportunity to support individuals from our church who will be called to the mission field. A mission trip takes teens out of their comfort zones and exposes them to human needs beyond the bubbles in which they live. These experiences are also character-building and life-changing. I am looking forward to serving in Tennessee this July. Our mission trip team consists of seventeen individuals thus far. Please pray for our group and for the people who we will serve on this trip.
Blessings and peace!