“What is the value of doing an international mission trip with youth?”
Andrew Noe is the Student Minister at Rosemont Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, and the moderator of this blog. He enjoys superheroes, and trying to be funny. He is married to the wonderful and amazing Hannah Noe, and has a beautiful daughter named Gwendolyn. They also have a super intelligent dog named Daphne, and a water-obsessed cat named Ellie.
I was talking with someone recently and they were speaking about how God moves in the world. It took me a few days to realize that all of the large events they were speaking of happened in America. It is not an evil thing or even a bad thing really, to look at the world in terms of where you have been/are/live.
This person is younger, and has never been out of the country. They had never experienced what God might be doing other places, and had probably never thought about it. I mean why would you? I have never been in my neighbor’s living room, so I have never (other than right now) imagined what takes place there.
I think the value of doing an international mission trip is to open a teenager’s mind to a few possibilities.
First a youth will learn and explore that others around the world are serving the same God as them. The great thing though, as that student learns and explores that while those people serve the same God, it probably looks drastically different than how the student serves God on a daily basis. They might learn for the first time in their life, there are multiple right ways to do something.
Secondly a youth who travels to serve will be a changed person (hopefully). They are setting aside their comforts and regular routine to go do something for someone or people they have never met. Giving up their own wants and needs (even if at first it’s just to go on a fun trip) will help them learn a little perspective. The luxuries of clean water and a decent place to live look entirely different when you make a friend in another country who doesn’t have those things. After seeing large, heart breaking places where injustice runs wild, their eyes change. Suddenly they come back home, and they pay more attention to those around them, who are suffering, and before they ignored. As a result of a trip, I heard of someone who would buy those peanut butter cracker snacks and bottles of water, leaving them in their car so they could always be ready to provide nourishment to homeless people in their city.
Lastly, it matures them. I know one of the last times my church went on a trip, the youth went down an escalator in an international airport and saw guards with large guns. In that moment I think they realized the world is different, and they grew up a little. Being in charge of your passport, having to answer customs questions, usually forms of travel such as subways they have never taken before; all of these things adds something to a teenager.
So I urge you, take an international trip as a church and include youth. Maybe make it a special 10th-12th grade sort of thing, but make sure some teenagers go. Give them the chance to explore the world, grow a little, and realize God moves in many ways all over the world.
Disclaimer: I have only been on one trip with youth, but it was eye opening. I hope to go again soon. I know that even my views of what an international trip looks like, is probably shallow and limited. I hope my descriptions or scenarios I have encountered did not offend, since I realize many trips are different.