Five Reasons to Take Your Child On An Overseas Missions Trip
This video captures memories from our first missions trip to India
Just two weeks ago my girls and I ventured halfway across the world to answer the call to mission work in central India. This was our second trip to that region in the last 18 months. According to some sources, India and China comprise the fastest growing body of Christians in the world. Our mission involved equipping and discipling 400 Christian children who already belong to 47 local Bible groups. (Our local Indian brothers and sisters will remain unnamed in order to protect their lives and work.) This event marked our second undertaking to germinate the cause of Christ among these gracious people. Our children’s camp, sponsored by Bellevue Baptist Church, offered three days for these Christian children to increase their Biblical literacy with Bible stories, ideas for prayer and personal worship and evangelism tools to prepare them for success. Not surprisingly, the Christians we met were loving, warm and engaging.
Growing up as a missionary kid myself, my senses were familiar with third world conditions. However, my children had only seen pictures, heard stories and experienced this second hand. So the first time that I took my children to India, their senses and emotions were assaulted with the rude awakening of chaotic driving, outdoor defecating, anemic people, open air food stands and mud huts. Yet, our call was not for a vacation, but a mission.
Our assignment prepared us to teach children. We instruct children weekly here in America, so they anticipated a similar experience. Our friends in the United States vary in nationality and culture including Indian friends. The girls expected something familiar when interacting with our new acquaintances in India. However, their participation in our first international mission trip proved life altering. What was similar was the fact that children we were teaching in India needed Jesus just as we do and just as the children in the United States. We had the opportunity to share Christ and present each child with a personal copy of God's Word. The children in India gratefully clutched their new Bibles as eagerly as the little ones we teach here in inner city Memphis where Bibles are also a rarity.
As a mom I intentionally involve my children in opportunities to teach, lead worship, and serve in ministry locally as well as abroad. True application applies feet to the words in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you: ....”(NASB) I believe that Jesus directs us to be active in reaching new disciples where we live, in the nearby areas and in places far away. What I know from loving Jesus and serving him from childhood is that often our greatest blessings are encountered when we say “yes” to God. He often asks me to do or go somewhere I would rather not go. Travel abroad can be hazardous. In wrestling with legitimate concerns and understandable hesitation, I clearly heard God ask, “Are you willing?” I am certainly not the only person who can do the job. I am certainly not the only person who can go. I am certainly not the only person who can teach or direct, but I am willing. So just as Samuel from the Old Testament, we answered, “Here am I, Lord.”
While part of our team worked at the children's camp teaching Bible stories, other team members worked to build a new prayer hut. Notice the bamboo and mud hut it replaces. The new structure now proudly boasts the finest building in town. Pastors from nearby villages came as neighbors did in an old fashioned barn-raising to offer physical and spiritual muscle. Our team worked alongside local believers to establish a testament to the growth of God's church in this remote place.
In The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson quotes Dr. Richard Halverson, Chaplain of the Senate in the 1980’s and 1990’s: “You go nowhere by accident. Wherever you go, God is sending you. Wherever you are, God has put you there.” Clearly, we will be successful in serving God if we respond willingly to the opportunities to which God invites us. Every person we meet is potentially a divine appointment. The Word compels us to be prepared.
So as I stood in front of those 400+ precious souls, I spoke the words God had laid on my heart about personal worship. My message entreated them to be an pivotal force in their generation in the country where God had placed them. As I scanned the crowd the first day, a noticeable fact emerged. Nearly sixty percent of the children were boys. Wow! Think of the potential of those boys to reach their generation.
While my heart was deeply moved, the reverberations in the resolve of my girls moved me to tears. Much of what tugs at my heart and theirs is what we see out the window, or what we see as we sit among the children, or what we see in the eyes of the children as we teach.
Fresh from the work, I offer five reasons to take your children on a mission trip overseas. Consider these benefits when contemplating the nurturing of your child’s heart.
Five Reasons to Take Your Children on a Mission Trip Overseas.
1. Heart for the World
Travel offers perspective that even well-read students fail to absorb. The impact of sights and smells far away from the familiarity of everyday invite a healthy comparison between their normal and the normal of another culture. Often humility is the reaction to the joy they see on the faces of those who have so much less. A grateful heart springs from a more realistic outlook.
Because I was born into a missionary family, my longing for friends from a variety of backgrounds comes naturally. This exposes my children to people who are seemingly different, but really much like us. The awareness of contrasting looks, foods and culture always invites appreciation for variety. I love that God loves variation. I do too.
Being on an overseas mission trip has encouraged the girls to pray specifically for our Christian brothers and sisters in India. We pray for their physical safety as danger increases. We pray for the continued growth in their faith communities. We pray for the dear children with whom we have planted seeds of God’s truths. A trip like this ramps up my daughters’ spiritual heart for the world.
2. Community Service
While it might seem silly to mention such a trivial reason, traveling nearly 15,000 miles to India for mission work will count as community service. This thought might entice a reluctant student to do the work to earn funds and prepare for the journey. In my world, those going on a mission trip can offer their services and goods in exchange for needed funds. For example, we volunteered to keep kids, clean houses, organize school rooms and closets in exchange for a donation to our trip. Gift items could be purchased for a contribution to our India visit. Our service should be as broad as opportunity allows.
3. Changes Your Comfort Zone
Cultural norms overseas create unsettling emotions. Traveling often demands logistics that you can’t wait to escape. Dizzying car rides with harrowing moments occurring repeatedly, hotel rooms that you can’t speak about, food that you resist identifying, eternal travel nights when you dream of your own bed, and countless other challenges all intensify the impact of a mission trip. Hopefully, the materialistic temptations of living as an American teen appear trivial and bourgeoistic. The eternal work of instilling God’s Word in children in a foreign place far surpasses the most uncomfortable occurrences. Upon return everything falls within the perspective gained on this adventure.
4. Serve Internationally Overseas Just As We Serve At Home
Since we instruct children weekly in our own church and at a inner city school, the activities required during the children’s camp seemed natural. Our children’s camp involved telling Bible stories to increase Biblical literacy, sessions on prayer and personal worship, and training for evangelism. My girls speak regularly with some of these same tools. Contemplating the demographics of our audience adjusted the method somewhat, but the core message remains unchanged. A mission trip should be an extension of what you are already doing at home.
5. Leadership Development
A unique setting such as India offered new circumstances to practice teaching and leading. Working with a translator proved exciting. Experiencing the students regarding your message and friendship with respect added confidence to my girls. On our last trip the girls were pulled into several situations requiring them to teach to hundreds of women spontaneously. Years of working and speaking in their own church home created a relaxed response from them. A wider range of opportunities completed with favorably enriches and builds boldness. What a solid way to establish leadership qualities in your children.
David Livingstone, a missionary to Africa, once said "This generation can only reach this generation. Will we raise our children to effectively impact their generation for Jesus Christ?" Certainly, our trips to India invested in the children of the next generation in India and in our own home.