Pray: Why Missions?
|Team Latvia, 2011
(Karissa in front row, second from left)
“Wow. That’s great for your kids. I just don’t think our family could do that.”
That’s the most common response I hear when people find out that we said goodbye to both our youngest daughters this past weekend. One left Saturday and the other Sunday for the training step of their five-week mission trips. Although they’re both in Dallas for training, on Thursday, Melanie (14) and her team will head to Peru and Karissa (16) and hers to Latvia.
This trip marks Melanie’s third missionary journey and second summer in Peru. And Latvia makes Karissa’s (counting on fingers here) fifth mission trip and fourth summer overseas (she’s served in Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Panama in all). And yes, we could list similar countries and numbers for their older siblings. Missions matters to our family and, by God’s grace, has become a treasured part of our lives.
Team Peru, 2011
(Melanie in second row, far right)
I’ve read some negative things about short-term mission trips that focus more on the needs of those who go than the needs in-country. I count many fulltime missionaries as friends and understand something about the work these trips involve for them. But I will continue to help my children (and others) go. Since I hear many questions about our family’s mission activities, I thought I’d share my responses to a few of the more frequently asked.
Aren’t your kids missing out on normal summer activities? In a word, yes. But I don’t have a problem with that. My children have grown up knowing that what was right for everyone was not necessarily right for them. Their youth group’s going to a fantastic camp this summer. My girls are sad to miss the adventure and praying for their friends who attend. But at the burden to take the gospel overseas outweighs any desire on their part for sun, sand, jobs, or a great camp experience. To say they’re missing out is like saying the person who dines on steak and lobster has blown the opportunity for a fantastic Happy Meal.
How can you let them go for so long? Our children serve with Awe Star Ministries which provides a 35-day (3 days training, 30 days in-country, 2 days debriefing) missions experience. In the beginning, these were rite of passage trips for them both. The trip length has been specifically designed as an intentional step from childhood to adult. Now, they love the five-week format and the intense discipleship/missions experience. I miss my daughters, but I rest easier at night knowing they’re with an organization I trust doing work that counts for eternity.
How can you afford it? I can’t. Although my husband and I have always donated to their trips and given many hours of sweat equity on our children’s behalf, we’ve never paid for a single trip ourselves. One of the most valuable parts of the experience, in our view, is the fundraising aspect. Together with a hand-picked mission board, the girls take responsibility for their fundraising. They plan and carry out activities, events, and jobs that will bring in funds. Yes, they’ve had some generous gifts. But they’ve also spent four or five months working hard to reach their goals. I can’t measure the value in terms of growth in character and responsibility.
What about safety? Again, our girls are going with an organization we trust. Most missions organizations take special precautions to ensure the missionaries’ safety. Awe Star’s president/founder, Dr. Walker Moore, has taken students overseas for nearly forty years. The organization trains their leaders in scenarios even my overactive imagination doesn’t consider. And I have no question that my children are safer following God than staying home in disobedience.
Do you make them go? Not at all. Initially, our younger girls followed their older siblings’ example. Now, they go because they love it. Because God commands us to go. And because every year when they pray about it, they ask Him where—not if—they should serve.
What about other missions organizations? Awe Star’s certainly not the only missions organization around. Our family loves their approach and believes in their work. In fact, although I sent my children as missionaries first, I now serve as Awe Star’s Director of Prayer as well as serving them via my writing and editing. But this Saturday, I combine my love for missions, teens, and writing when I leave on my second missions trip with SUSIE Magazine. Although both trips focus on evangelism (primarily via a pantomime drama and personal witnessing) and discipleship, the goals are different. Awe Star designs their trips as rite of passage adventures that help students develop adult skills and responsibilities. The SUSIE Magazine trips offer a cross-cultural experience during the day and a camp-type revival meeting every night. Other differences exist, but both organizations and their trips provide multiple opportunities to share Christ in a cross-cultural setting with godly adult leadership.
Are you a teen? Do you have a teen? Please pray about serving in missions next summer or sooner. Almost everyone I know who participates in a mission trip describes it as “life-changing” for both missionaries and those they serve. And that beats sun, sand, and swimming pools every time.
Have you or your teen taken a short-term mission trip? Feel free to share your comments here.