Our teens participate in our church's youth group. Over the past several years, the church has been developing a mission statement with a missions emphasis that consists of "making more and maturing disciples." We are pleased that the youth group activities center around this goal, the fulfillment of the Great Commission. In fact, our family mission statement shares the same goal. One of the ways the youth group has done this is to establish a local ministry. Each summer, the senior high students have the opportunity to spend a week sharing the Gospel and serving in our own community. They have also established a relationship with a sister church in Nicaragua, which they visit biennially. When Micah and Eden each expressed interest in serving on the missions teams this summer, Mitch attended the parent info meeting with them at church. I was surprised (but not really) when Mitch came home and said that Micah, Eden, and he all wanted to go to Nicaragua. This is something that gets me incredibly excited. Missions trips are complex. I know already that the experience will be valuable for my kids. Mitch asked me a couple times if I wanted to go. I said that of course I do, but the logistics of making it happen were overwhelming. When I learned of the need of female leaders going on the trip I started to ask more questions to see if my participation was even feasible. Finally, I committed to the team as well. Now the work begins.
I have been pondering for a while how to present this missions trip to my friends and family. I have some things I want to say about summer missions, and I think it's going to end up being a whole blog series. To get started, I came up with a list of do's and don'ts to think about if you get a support letter or hear of someone who is going on a missions trip (like us).
DO read the letter all the way to the end. Yeah, you know that they are going to ask for money, and you've probably already decided if you are going to give or not, and possibly even how much you can give. But there's much more to the support letter than someone wanting "your" money.
DON'T take this lightly. I said earlier that missions trips are complex. Everyone who gets involved is impacted. I think that short-term missions have a bad reputation in some circles. I have read crazy stories about disastrous team trips. Just because there are some ineffective or ill-equipped teams doesn't mean that they all are. Read the letter to find out what the team's goals are before you make a decision about how you can participate.
DON'T think that the amount of money you are able to give is "too little" or that it doesn't matter. Ok, I'll be honest, large amounts add up quickly, but most donations are small. Non-profit organizations rely on both. Live generously. That leads straight into my next point...
DON'T feel you are funding our family vacation. We can pay for that ourselves. In a future post, I'll explain what our team is raising money for, so you can see where it's going. Now, I have done the whole vacation-on-the-beach-in-the-Bahamas thing. When I returned, I said I never want to go away again unless it is part of a service trip in some way. So, in a way, this is my dream vacation. But it's not a vacation, and I'm not asking you to fund it. Instead, we're hoping that you will view this as an opportunity to participate in ministry with us. What I'm really trying to say is...
DO discover the blessing of giving. Mitch and I have been supporting both long-term and short-term missionaries for years. We know firsthand what a blessing it is to be part of ministry in this way. I'm not trying to twist your arm by preaching a false, prosperity gospel, promising that you will get back what you give. It is a blessing to participate by giving, when the giving comes from being motivated for the glory of God. In fact, here's a real challenge: go find someone to support without being asked. Whenever you hear of a need, be a blessing to that person before they even ask. George Mueller had received (by prayer) millions of dollars in today's currency in order to run his orphanage, yet he never asked anyone for money (http://www.desiringgod.org/biographies/george-muellers-strategy-for-showing-god). How did that happen? People gave without being asked.
DO consider other ways you can support the team besides giving a monetary donation. All of us are brainstorming ways we can earn extra cash. Eden is donating her babysitting money. Mitch is going to do some handyman work for friends. I'm going to sew some things to sell. And so on.
DO pause to pray for the people going on the trip. The letter should give you some ideas of prayer requests. I love the idea of rope holders. William Carey was a missionary to India. He painted the word picture of rope holders: if he were going to be lowered by a rope into the bottom of a well, he would need someone to remain up on top and hold the rope. A famous quote says, "Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope." (http://www.desiringgod.org/books/andrew-fuller). Every missionary needs rope holders.
If the Lord wills, we will go down to Nicaragua this summer. For now we're planning and preparing. I'm excited to share more details in upcoming posts!