Today is a day we've been counting down to for months. Today is the day our Mission Team leaves for Uganda, and on that team is our daughter Erin. I had planned to be on this trip too, leading our young people, building into their lives and into the lives of kids in Uganda. Dreaming dreams and figuring out ways we can partner with nationals to better serve their community. Eyes wide open to where God is at work in the area and joining in with what God is already doing... because it is already blessed! I had so many hopes and expectations for this trip. I even had some of my vaccinations all in the hope that I would be well enough to be cleared to go, but it wasn't to be. My recent health issues have sidelined me and it is a huge disappointment. But I have to face the facts that at this stage it is better for me, my family and the team to stay at home and get healthy.
I'm gutted that I don't get to see Erin have her first experience of Africa or to see her serve on her first mission trip as a teenager. But I'm thrilled that she has this opportunity to go and I know it will be hugely transformative for her. When I was her age I could not have imagined participating in something like this. A young teen, on a mission trip with all the challenges that comes with it. It sounds daunting and I guess some might wonder are we crazy for letting her go.
Let me just address that... Erin has grown up on mission. She has spent almost every summer of her life on mission in the Czech Republic. She has had experiences that I at her age could never have dreamed of. Her first mission trip was when she was just 10 months old, check out those photos from a glorious summer at Malenovice in the Czech Republic back in 2003. It was our intention that we would be a family on mission. And as challenging as it was to take our whole family (especially when they were little babies) on mission, it was totally worth it! I loved it when the girls would have a class discussion in Primary School about what they did during their summer holidays and Erin & Talitha would say they went on a mission trip. These are the kind of memories I prayed my kids would have. I wanted them to grow up with these values and as they got older be ready to embrace opportunities to step out of their comfort zones and experience the unprecedented discipleship and ministry training opportunity that a mission trip presents.
Short term mission really has two key purposes: ministry and mobilization. I have no doubt the team which Erin is a part of will do many important ministries which will be an enormous benefit to the nationals and the Fields of Life workers on the ground in Uganda. Just by showing up they will be an encouragement to the kids and the staff. But I do believe the long-term legacy of this mission trip is in the mobilization value of this experience. I believe a vision for mission is better caught than taught! Just think about the potential impact a group of young people (and adults) could have when they come home from mission with a new vision, focused prayer and a heart for world! I'm excited to see how this trip impacts Erin's life and difference she will seek to make in the world in the light of it. She is a great kid on a great team and they all have wonderful adults and leaders who will love them and walk them through this experience to ensure they don't miss the meaning. My prayer is that they love God, love people, build relationships well and finish strong.
"The World Is a Book and Those Who Do Not Travel Read Only One Page" attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo
(Updated 8th July) Since writing this original post I came across an excellent blog post from youth ministry specialist Adam McClane. You can read his post (click) Why We Travel. In it he argues for the travel as means of combating cultural ignorance and I wholeheartedly agree with him that travel is like education a gift and investment in our kids. It is a necessity! I've certainly seen the truth of this in the lives of the many teenagers I've taken on short-term mission over the years. And of course I've witnessed it in the lives of my own kids. Travel and especially cross cultural experiences such as short term mission (when it is done well) widens horizons and they are brimful of experiential learning opportunities as participants step out of their comfort zones. It is important that we remember growth does not reside in a place called comfortable!
In his post Adam mentioned a guy called Rick Steves and his excellent TED Talk on the value of Thoughtful Travel. I'm posting it here and it is well worth watching.
In his talk Steve makes a compelling argument for the value of thoughtful travel (the 'thoughtful' piece is key here)
Travel opens us to the wonders of our world.
Travel connects us with culture.
Travel connects you with people.
Travel challenges our ethnocentricity.
When we travel we gain a better appreciation for people’s baggage.
When we travel we can learn different solutions to our problems.
When you travel you learn to deal with the poor honestly.
When you travel you realize that all people are the same. (thanks to Adam McClane for the outline to his talk)
So whether you are about to participate in a short-term mission trip or just visit another culture on your summer holidays; do it thoughtfully and keep in how transformational it can be (if done thoughtfully) And don't be afraid “Fear is for people who don’t get out very much.” ~ Rick Steves