This year’s theme is “The Story/The Stories.” Each week our blog will focus on a story from a youth minister. We hope these stories help inspire you in the great work you are doing, as well as let you know you aren’t alone in the crazy, sweet, often hard to fathom world of youth ministry. This week we are hearing……
The Story of When the Mission Trip Came Home
Glenn Maddox is the Missions Mobilizer for the Baptist General Association of Virginia. He’s a graduate of the University of Virginia and the Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. He and his wife Jen met in the Baptist Student Union, and they have two boys – Graham and Dalton.
The story of when the mission trip came home begins with a trip that fell through. I coordinate Impact Mission Camps, a youth construction mission camp and ministry of the Baptist General Association of Virginia. We partner with local associations and groups of churches to bring students to a locality where people need home repairs and equip the youth to help ensure those homes are safe, warm, and dry. While most of our churches and camps are in Virginia, there is still a strong desire among students to go as far as possible from home. We had one group from the pretty far east in Virginia register for a camp in Abingdon, VA (far southwest) – a solid 6-hour trip – the kids were pretty excited. But fairly late in the game, the host school let us know they wouldn’t be able to accommodate us, and in the scramble to find a suitable host, we ended up having camp about 6 minutes from that church. They had already planned their summer around going that week, none of the other weeks or locations would work with their church schedule, and they faced the dilemma of going to camp in their own hometown or doing something totally different altogether.
Fortunately, this group chose to serve at home for that week. They were full participants – sleeping on air mattresses a few short miles from their own beds, and working in their own community. The kids grumbled a bit at first, but as the week went on, they started talking more and more about how crazy it was that there was all this need so near their own homes, and they’d never noticed. At the end of the week, they all agreed they were glad they’d decided to serve so close to home. But they were also glad that the next year, they’d be able to go somewhere else.
A year later, that same group came to a camp (about four hours from home), and one of the kids from the group walked up to me and said, “Hey, Glenn, do you remember me?”
In the most polite way I could think of I said something like, “I saw 1,000 people at Impact last summer – of course I don’t remember you.”
He said, “I’m Patrick!” as if that were supposed to clear up everything for me. When he saw my blank stare, he said, “You worked on my house last year!” The other kids from his church walked up, and one of them put his arm around the kid and explained everything to me. These kids had worked on the home of a kid they went to school with. During the week they’d gotten to know him. And they made sure that Patrick knew they were there to have a relationship with him – not just work on his house. And that relationship turned into them discovering how much he had to contribute to their group – and to their community. The next year, because they had invested in more than just his home, he was ready to go to camp and do the same for other people.
At the end of every week, invariably, someone asks “How do we keep the excitement we feel here year round?” A lot of times, I’ll tell them that story. Maybe your next mission experience needs to happen at home. That group was able to see need where they had never noticed it before, but they were also able to see the people they served as, first and foremost, people. People who have as much to offer to their church as their church had to offer to them. It isn’t really about keeping the excitement of the week. It’s about keeping an open mind, open heart, and open eyes to the opportunities and people that are so much easier to see when we go away than they are when we come back home.