“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…”
Jesus’ words from the book of Matthew are the gold standard for the Great Commission in our faith tradition, but many of us read it as “For Adults Only.”
In our early twenties, my husband and I were transformed on our first mission trip, and since then, we have led numerous groups both locally and internationally. We believe in the power of stepping outside ourselves and our suburban boundaries to reach those who might otherwise be overlooked.
We have also felt that it’s not only essential for the growth and maturity of adults in our congregation, but for Christians of all ages.
Two days ago, my youngest daughter and I walked off a plane from our summer mother-daughter mission trip. It’s a tradition we started with our oldest daughter, and in addition to family mission trips and projects, it has proven to be one of the most poignant crossroads of our children’s lives.
I contemplated unloading whatever wisdom I might have about intentionally creating these mission trip opportunities for your children, but the Holy Spirit suggested that my daughters’ insights might be the most effectual voices on this matter.
In their own words, here’s what our one-on-one trips abroad for the purpose of sharing Jesus with others have meant to them.
Daughter #1 (age 19) – “I was thirteen at the time, and our trip came at the end of a very hard season for me as I was being healed of my Sensory Processing Disorder. A young girl came up to me after I gave my testimony, through a translator, of how God had healed me of my anxieties and fears. She was a little younger than I was and shared that she had never heard anything so beautiful. She too dealt with fears and wanted healing. We were able to pray for her right there. The very idea that my story could be relatable to people that don’t even speak my language changed everything for me. I suddenly saw that my pain had value and purpose. I don’t know if I could have fully believed at the age of thirteen that I could make a difference in someone’s life if I hadn’t experienced it.”
Daughter #2 (age 16) – “The best part was getting to know new people and being forced out of my comfort zone. Doing it with my mom definitely made us stronger and built trust for me. I’ve dealt with my fair share of anxieties, and because we were in such a different place facing culture shock, with my mom there, I felt safe that nothing bad was gonna happen to me or anyone on the team. I could focus on what I was there for – which was getting to share my story with other teenagers from a different country. If parents or kids are fearful about taking a trip like this, I’d encourage them that they are going to have to experience the world outside their own, and this is a really good way to bravely and safely be used by the Lord. I’d also recommend allowing kids to go one step past their own perceived limitations. Let them stumble if they need to. Our parents’ faith that we can do this helps us believe in ourselves.”
Every family is different, and we may not all have the opportunity to travel around the world to expose our children to missions – so, together, share where you can.
But many of us, if we are willing and obedient to answer the call to “Go,” can usher in a watershed faith journey for our children and those they touch along the way.
Denise C. McDowell
You can find me at denisemcdowell.com