On our mission trip to Belize last week, we took 7 kids age 6 to 14. Until a few years ago I would have never envisioned this being a reality. David and Karen Rhodes, our partner missionaries, expressed that they have gotten lots of negative feedback about envisioning such experiences for young kids. Here is a summary of our experience.
What we saw:
– kids jump in to serve with absolutely no fear.
– kids who didn’t blink twice at being challenged to talk to others about what God was doing in their lives.
– kids who built relationships with no hesitation.
– kids who wore themselves out serving, but still had the energy to jump and play in the ocean.
– kids seeing firsthand poverty like they had never experienced, yet never blinked.
– kids who didn’t want to leave and are ready now to go back.
What we didn’t see:
– complaining or whining. Maybe we just took the perfect kids.
– life-changing declarations of “I’ll clean my plate for the rest of my life and never want for more toys again”. They are still kids after all.
– any indication that a mission experience was too much or in anyway unhealthy for kids.
Questions that we won’t know the answers to for a long time:
– What if a love for missions was in a child’s heart from the time they were very young?
– What if as adults they never need an “a ha” moment of how God’s world is bigger and there are lost and hurting people who need his gospel because they’ve seen it firsthand early in life?
– What if we raise a generation of kids whose hearts beat for missions, not from seeing pictures and slide shows, but from living and breathing it for themselves?
– How will their worldview be shaped by seeing the poverty they saw and the hurting people they ministered to?
– What impact will it make on the seven kids we took to experience early on that God wants all of us to be doers of the Word and not just hearers?
Those aren’t questions that we can answer today, but I have to tell you that I’m very optimistic about the future answers.
Bottom line. Is it safe for kids to go on mission? Yes, if you are intentional. Can kids do something effective on mission trips? Absolutely, in fact their impact was probably greater than ours as adults. Can it change their lives? Absolutely.