By Dr. Nancy Going, Director of the CYF Distributed Learning Program at Luther Seminary
What happens on Mission Trips?
Yes, kids get exposed to parts of the world that they haven't seen or experienced before.
Yes, students have to come up against tasks that they think they aren't capable of.
Yes, kids learn about things they can do, and get drawn into God's purposes for their lives.
Yes, stopping and doing life for a week in a Christian community is a powerful experience.
Yes, getting out of their comfort zone is a critical part of the Christian faith.
Yes, focusing on mission allows the Spirit to move in unique ways.
Yes, students get the opportunity to see and connect with what God is doing in the world.
But here's the REALLY amazing thing about mission trips. The people. Whoever the people are. It is an unparalleled opportunity for relationships. Yes relationship, the very thing we always say that ministry is about. Life changing relationships, even if they aren't necessarily long term. Life changing relationships because there is so much to be learned from our out of the ordinary engagement with PEOPLE.
In the mission trips and workcamps I've been a part of, we work really hard to help kids (and adults) learn that the people are more important than the work. We say it over and over again, "sit with, and spend time with and listen to people." It always makes us uncomfortable, it doesn't always mean great connections, and it is almost always easier to make sure the job gets done.
But it is always the engagement with people that helps us all grow the most profoundly.
And I've seen it happen again and again, that the time we spent with other people changed the time we spent with one another.
In his book Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf points out that "Christians must learn that salvation comes, not only as we are reconciled to God and not only as we learn to live with each other" but as we take the dangerous and costly step of embracing people who are remarkably different than we are just as God has embraced us.
How have you seen these kinds of relationships awaken kids?
Nancy Going is a life-long youth minister, who loves Jesus, other people learning to love Jesus, her husband Art Going, and the two new families that are her kids and grandkids.
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