Like I said before, I had to reinvent the wheel here as I couldn’t get any help from anyone who had done this before. Fortunately I have participated on many mission trips (as an adult and as a teenager) and have led trips for adults, so I had a pretty good idea of what to do. I boiled all this down in the context of presenting to kids and their parents.
Initially I began leaking information about a coming trip to all the kids involved in our mid-week small group program. Then in late March I began advertising in the program/bulletin that we would be offering a mission trip for 4th and 5th graders. It listed a web address for more information and dates for an informational meeting in April. I had a web form on the web site where people could RSVP for the meeting. I was amazed at how many people were responding. I figured I would take 10-12 kids, but the response was looking like a lot more than that.
Our first meeting was perfect. It was a 45 minute meeting where I shared vision and the where, when and what. I had everything in print including adult and child participation forms. The vibe was incredibly positive and most questions pertained to little details since I covered all the majors both in my talk and the printed materials. I provided information on deadlines for deposits, payments, participation forms as well as meeting dates. I even set up a blog with all this information (sometimes even a recording of the meeting) so that all the information was in once place. It also provided a place where people could ask questions and benefit from the questions asked by others. We even had a page with everyone’s pictures so teams could get to know each other better.
We held more meetings over the next two months and a commissioning service (with a very short meeting before that). Just to make it a lot easier, we had everyone just meet at the airport. By the time I got there, some of the early birds had already checked in and were at the gate. I waited until everyone had checked in before moving going on to the gate. We flew from DFW to Los Angeles where we picked up our rental vans and drove straight down to Ensenada (which all went without a hitch). We set up camp (we literally set up camp as we stayed in tents) and then pulled everyone into a quick meeting talking about boundaries, buddy rules and other essentials like that. All the kids had free time to explore the orphanage, get more settled or even climb the big hill behind the orphanage. We wrapped up the day with dinner, chapel with the orphans and some prayer time around the campfire.
The next day was all work (okay… just a little bit of play). We put together a shirt VBS program for the kids at the orphanage, so mostly our kids just played and interacted with them. The kids loved it and couldn’t get enough of it. After lunch, we had various work projects to do including one major offsite project which required us to haul dirt up a hill to fill in an area where they were building a house. It was way too much work for us… we could have done this for a week. But, it was the stuff of mission projects were made up. It was hot, the work was dirty but the kids had a blast! Okay, they didn’t have a blast, but they did it all without complaining. They took turns shoveling, moving dirt and smoothing it out. I never heard any complaining. They were great. When we got back, I had a little surprise. I gathered everyone together and we took a hike up the hill behind the orphanage. Kids took turns hauling a few heavy crates with supplies. At the very top is a breathtaking view of the area. You can see mountains all around. Between some mountains, you can see a sliver of Ensenada and between others you can see the beautiful Pacific. On the top of the hill we were on is a giant cross. It’s my favorite place there in Ensenada. We opened up the crates and it was filled with water bottles and food in the forms of MREs. You know, military rations. See, I knew that the whole time we would be on this trip, the food would be great. I wanted to provide at least one meal that was unique or a little strange. On previous trips, I would be on MRE’s for weeks at a time. Most of the kids loved them. As a special treat, I pulled out the dessert MRE’s, pound cake! While on the hill, I wanted us to take some time to pray. The kids divided into their groups and they had a prayer assignment. They prayed for the orphans. Once all the kids had a chance to pray in their groups, we divided again into different groups and they prayed over Ensenada. After that they divided again and prayed over Mexico. Later they prayed for the America’s and finally prayed for the unreached around the world. What I planned as a 45 minute activity quickly grew into 90 minutes of prayer. Changing things up, keeping the kids ,moving to new groups and changing the prayer topics kept them interested. I’d rotate from group to group to join and simply listen. It was amazing to watch the kids grow in their confidence of prayer. It was very obvious that some of these kids had rarely prayed out loud. We had to rush things at the end so they could get down the mountain before it was too dark. What an incredible day.
Day three was our last full day in Mexico. We started off the day by visiting one of the poorest barios in Ensenada. There was a family from a local church that had started a ministry out of their house. They took it upon themselves to feed the kids in their neighborhood lunch everyday as most of them didn’t get any food during the day except for dinner when their parents came home. We went to paint the outside of their house. It was a fun project and with 35-40 of us, it really didn’t take very long. Several of the kids enjoyed a seemingly endless game of soccer with some neighborhood kids. Lastly, we divided into our groups and went on a prayer walk. We encouraged the kids to just walk around as a groups and pray for the things and people they saw. We all met up about 45 minutes later with many exciting stories. Several groups met people along the way and prayed over them. The group I was with met a local pastor who was fairly discouraged. The kids in my group put their hands on the man and prayed as the interpreter translated. You can’t tell me that this wasn’t powerful. Finally, we wrapped up the project by gathering around the family who’s house we painted and prayed for them as a group. We then made our way into town where we were able to take our first showers of the trip. Following that we spent several hours being tourist and shopping. We had a great dinner at a Mexican restaurant (duh!) and then made our way back to the orphanage. After chapel, our kids got some extended playtime with the orphans before wrapping things up for the night.
The next day we got up early, packed our stuff up and headed out before 7:00 AM. We enjoyed a really nice lunch outside of San Diego and then caught a flight out of LAX at about 3:00 PM. It was a joyous homecoming at the DFW airport as families and kids were reunited. Within minutes it seemed everyone was gone. What an incredible experience. It was exactly what I had hoped it would be, in some ways even more. For weeks I continued to stay on this mountain top. The campus pastor at my campus (my direct boss), who’s son attended the trip on his own, began trying to convince me to consider becoming the church’s missions pastor. As fun as that would be, why not enjoy the best of both worlds???
After getting a good night’s sleep, I sent this email out to the team. You can read it here.
Within a few hours I got these responses:
- From one of the kids on the team.
- From one of the parents who sent their kid without them.
- From one of the parents who went on the trip as a leader.
Yes, we’ll be taking your kids to a foreign country… does that worry you?
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