ur four-year-old son rode his bike in front of our
heavily wooded campsite. After a few minutes, Eric pulled up beside his dad.
Are we going to have to cut down trees before we build the church? My husband
looked puzzled as he glanced over to see if I knew what Eric meant. I shrugged
before realizing he had never been on a camping trip that didnt include
building a church.
Our family is an on mission familythough not what most people
expect. Weve never been to language school. Instead of a furlough, we use our
vacation time to work and our longest assignment has been two weeks. You see,
our mission trips are short-term and family oriented.
We are continuing a tradition that began when
my husband was four years old. His family spent their vacations assisting
pioneer churches with construction projects. Because of those trips, he chose a
career in architecture and has helped a number of churches with building plans
as well as actual construction.
Our children expect to go on a mission trip each year. I suppose they
shouldthey both went on one before their first birthday. For 14 years we have
used our vacations to go on
mission to Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado, Alaska, Louisiana,
Mexico and other parts of Texas.
We are often asked why we take our children. Our answers may surprise you.
Our on mission vacations are an extension of our goals as a family.
Reinforce what children learn
at church. Mission Friends, Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors
teach that all Christians are missionaries. Our children have many
opportunities to experience this truth.
> Many small churches welcome families willing to help with Vacation Bible
> New churches need people to canvas neighborhoods.
> Campgrounds use families as hosts to welcome weary travelers.
> Church camps need volunteers.
> Inner-city missions need workers serving meals, working in clothes
closets, teaching classes and other needs.
Learn and see more of the
United States. Now that our children are older, they research the
areas where we will travel. They discover historical and interesting places to
visit. We plan our trips to include sites they suggest.
We have been many places we might have missed had we not been a family
Praying for a trip teaches them to rely on God. We pray for preparation, for
safety in travel and while on the project, for people we will meet, for
opportunities to share Christ, for our leaders and others going on the trip.
When a need arises, its easier for our family to be flexible with the
understanding that God is in control.
Form new friendships.
At church, we may not get to know someone from a different age group. During
our on mission trips, kids, adults and seniors work side-by-side, forming a
special God-given bond.
units. You have heard the expression: the family that prays together,
stays together. We believe a family should also serve together.
In Alaska we arranged for a boat tour into Prince William Sound. Eric posted
himself as the lookout for whales. A few hours out, two humpbacks were spotted.
They frolicked for several minutes before disappearing with a wave of their
tails. As we made our way back to the cabin, a little hand slipped into mine. I
looked down into the big gray eyes of my six-year-old son. Mom, God is so
I only prayed for one whale, and He gave me two. I am glad we were able to
share that moment of realizing Gods goodness.
When people learn how we spend our vacations, they usually ask what children
do on such trips. Every trip is different, but its possible to find age
appropriate jobs for each child. Talk to your childrenthey will have great
ideas. Here are a few jobs they can perform that have worked for us.
Working in Vacation Bible
School. Our children have been blessed to have wonderful teachers at
church. Its fun to watch them demonstrate what they have observed. When JoyAnna
was five, she decided she was old enough to help teach VBS. A little uncertain
as to how she would manage, I kept a close eye on her. A smaller girl was
crying; I started forward, but JoyAnna moved behind her and sat down. She
pulled the child into her lap to console her. In a few minutes, they were
coloring and the tears were gone. When you see your little one share Jesus love
with another child, it makes the trip worthwhile.
Sharing a talent. Some
children may be comfortable performing a special music selection. Others may
create drama presentations including scenery, costumes, music and dialogue.
These are often openings to allow others to present the gospel.
Pouring and deliveringwater. Hot and
thirsty workers need refreshment. Using a muffin tin makes it easy for a child
to carry several cups at once.
Serving meals and cleaning
up. Even very small children can serve rolls and cookies. Picking up
trash becomes a game when several children are involved. Give everyone a dust
cloth and see how quickly everything shines.
Assisting an adult. On
a construction site, children may help a grown-up with small jobs such as
pulling wire, setting electrical boxes into walls and measuring and marking
lumber for cutting.
Each on mission experience is
another building block strengthening a life of service. I pray these
foundations will continue to be built upon as our children grow. Each year they
are capable of handling a different level of ministry because of what has come
before. Its exciting to see children become more comfortable sharing their
faith and anticipating the joy of being on mission.
Pamela Rowell lives in Longview, Texas
> Check with your church or your local and state association for sponsored
events. Many state associations are mission partners with other states and
> Be a family sponsor for your church youth groups mission trip. You will
be blessed by serving with great kidsthe ones you dont hear about on the
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC