It feels like I have been going on mission trips for my entire life, but really it has only been since I was an excited and nervous 7th grader. When I was 13, I embarked on my first mission trip experience to West Virginia with the youth group of my home church. After that trip, our annual mission trip was one of the most anticipated weeks of my year. The day we got back we would begin hounding our youth leader about next year’s location, we would fundraise throughout the year, we would try to convince our friends to come along with us, and my friends and I even had a tradition of going shopping the week before for all the essentials (candy, playing cards, and more candy).
My friends and I would always have a wonderful time meeting new people, working to make our host community a little bit better, and spending time singing songs and playing games in God’s name. I never wanted the tradition of going on a summer mission trip to end. My friends and I even talked about continuing to meet up to go on trips together when we were home for college. Unfortunately, that dream very became a reality. However, the leaders of my home church asked me one summer if I would like to be one of the leaders for that summer’s Junior High Mission Trip. I have to be honest; I was a little hesitant. I loved going on mission trips as a student, but I wondered if I would have as much fun going as an adult leader. Nevertheless, I hesitantly and skeptically agreed to help them out.
On that trip, something amazing happened. I got to see mission trips from another angle. These 6th-8th graders had the same excitement and nervousness I had on my first trip. I listened as they told me about the projects on their work sites, which they were completing and the residents that they had met. I laughed with them as we played games and sang songs. But my favorite part of the experience was watching as their faith deepened and their relationship with Christ grew stronger before my very eyes.
Annual mission trips continue to be one of the most anticipated weeks of my year. However, these days, I buy far more first aid supplies and far less candy in preparation for our trips. I feel incredibly blessed to take groups of really great youth to places like Long Island, NY and Kirkwood-Brainerd Camp. On each trip I pray that the experience for our youth will be a good one and that they will grow in their faith and, of course, have fun while doing it. These past two mission trips were incredible. I know all youth pastors think they their youth are the best youth in the world, but I honestly believe that God has brought together a special group of uniquely intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate youth here at Thompson Church and I am proud and honored to be a part of their walk with Christ.