Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Guest Post: 7 Reasons You Should Take Your Child on a Mission Trip

 There are many things you can teach your children at home, but some lessons are only learned by venturing out.  My new friend, Kathleen from {full of life}, is my guest blogger today.  She shares lessons learned from taking her daughter on two mission trips.

Going on a mission trip can be a mind-altering experience for a teenager, in the best possible way.
  A mission trip is an opportunity to escape the conformism and competition of the teenage world and find out that life is a lot bigger and more meaningful than what happens in the gossip-filled halls of your high school.

I have a golden memory of a child development project outside of Arusha, Tanzania, on our first day on a Compassion trip.  Some of the church ladies invited Marie to join them as they led worship.  She danced alongside them as the praise band played a raucous African gospel song and a little girl with a raggedy doll wove in and out of everyone’s legs.  Marie was as far from the drama of high school as a girl could possibly be.

Through that trip and a subsequent one to Rwanda, Marie started
sorting out her priorities about what is truly valuable and what she wanted from life. Encountering first hand the desperate need for health care in the developing world, a dream was planted in her heart to become a nurse, and she is now in her final year of nursing school.

What my teenager learned on mission trips to Tanzania and Rwanda:

1.      It’s not about you. Whether you are digging wells, delivering supplies or advocating for the poor, the purpose of a mission trip is service. You forget bout yourself and your problems when all of your energy is focused on those in need.
2.       You meet the nicest people. A mission trip is a great opportunity for teens to be mentored by caring adults, as well as make like-minded friends. Sometimes you make lifelong friends, and sometimes they are just friends for a season, and either way is okay.
3.        There are good people all over the world.  When you get out of suburbia or ex-urbia or wherever it is you live, you find that, in spite of different languages, clothes, customs and foods, people everywhere have a lot in common. They love to shake hands and exchange names, share a laugh and a cold drink and learn a few words in the other's language.

4.       Complaining is for wimps. Our Rwanda trip leader told us that our motto would be "Suck it up,Buttercup." You don’t like tilapia and cassava? Too bad, that’s what’s for dinner. If you don’t eat it, you will offend the host and you’ll go hungry.  You don’t like going to the bathroom in a squatty potty with no door and a monkey watching you?  Too bad, there’s no other bathroom for fifty miles around. Besides, these kinds of misadventures make great stories.

An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. Gilbert K. Chesterton 

5.        Things will work out.  Hotels and guest houses in Africa tend to be kind of jerry-rigged; windows and doors might not open, or they might not close; stairs are uneven, and everything is a little more rundown than it is in the US.  The shower in our hotel in Tanzania tended to flood the bathroom, but water came out of it and you could get your body clean.  Everything happens more slowly in Africa too, partly because it’s just so darn hot.  You have to be patient and trust God that you will get what you need to survive, the way the people who live there do every day.
6.       Money doesn’t make people happy.  Everyone I’ve ever met who has been on a mission trip to a developing nation realizes when they return home how burdened they are by all  their "stuff". I'm not saying that it's better to be poor.  But the poor have a lot to teach us about what is truly valuable in this world; your faith, your family, your health and your calling. Everything else is more or less expendable.  
7.         Love for Jesus is a universal language. In Tanzania we visited a Baptist-run school and the pastor asked if we were Baptists. At the time we were Anglican, and when I told him that, he looked at me as if I had said we were Zoroastrians. I smiled and said, “And we love Jesus!”  A big grin split his face as he laughed and shook my hand. The church is one family, everywhere you go. 

Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. Gilbert K. Chesterton

Have you or your children been on a mission trip?  What did you/they learn?

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