My five year old was devastated that I was going to Belize without her. I thought about, since it was a family trip after all, but decided it would be best for me to check it out first since she is still so young. I’m glad I did. There are quite a few things that I learned that she will have to work on to be able to go. (As a side note, it has given new motivation to some of the things we’ve been wanting her to do anyway.)
Here are a few things that I observed that we need to work on before my kids are ready for a mission trip:
– A lot of prayer and spiritual preparation – The kids that went with us showed zero fear and jumped right in to serve and build relationships. I believe the primary reason is that they prayed A LOT with their families before the trip. Our parents did a great job of preparing them for what they were going to do and what was expected of them.
– Keeping their hands out of their mouth – Of course as mamas and daddys we know this is nasty anyway, but it is just part of being a kid to lick your fingers or pick at your teeth or whatever kids do! In an unfamiliar environment this is obviously not a good idea.
– Eating the food that is put in front of them – This has got to be one of the toughest ones. Most kids are picky eaters in one way or another. In another country your options are limited and often it is considered rude to not eat what your hosts provide. I’ve been talking to my daughter about this a lot. To show me she’s ready to go, she has to start by eating what I make for supper without complaining!
– Knowing when to be quiet – Part of the reason you want kids to go on a trip like this is so that they can experience life like they have never seen. And they will! Kids will be kids, but it is great to prepare them that they can’t say out loud everything that comes to their minds. “Yuck, they’re dirty” or “What’s wrong with that house?” or similar comments would be very offensive. Help kids learn to filter the words that come out of their mouths.
– Stay with the group – Wanderers are bad on a mission trip. From the airport to wandering through the village, we had many occasions where it was essential that kids stayed with the group for their safety.
– Take instructions well – There are a lot of instructions that go with trips. They have to be able to pay attention and follow through with what they’ve been asked.
– Be bold – For a trip like our Belize trip, kids have to be willing to step out. It just wouldn’t have worked if our kids had been shy and had to stay under mama’s wing. They wouldn’t have experienced as much and they would have driven their parents nuts!