Yes, We Took Our Kids on an International Mission Trip!
Setting out on our adventure, we affectionately called it National Lampoon’s Guatemalan Vacation! In reality, this mission trip-vacation with a family of six to Lake Atitlan, Guatemala held none of the insanities which that name suggests. But that label somehow gave us the ability to laugh and have fun with the hurdles and twists along the way. God led us to take this trip through some work my sister has started in Guatemala with her non-profit organization, Relief Missions.
My husband Leon and I have been involved in service projects and mission work throughout our lives, and our kids have participated when we’ve served locally. So, this Relief Missions endeavor gave us just the perfect opportunity to make the next step and introduce our children to international travel, cross-cultural experiences and reaching beyond comfort zones – which God often calls us to do.
We met my sister and her family, my mom and a couple of friends there, so we were a crew of 13 in our efforts. One of the days we did some activities with a school in the local village. We had taken along some donated school supplies, some simple songs to teach in Spanish and some materials for a craft. In spite of the language barrier, our kids jumped right in to interact with the school children. We had explained that body language speaks volumes; that just being kind, smiling, and showing them how to do the things was all they needed to do. They loved it! Using a few simple instruments and hand puppets we brought, we then sang some songs, which provided a way to break the ice and transcend cultures. Our kids performed first, and then they shared the puppets with the school children, who really enjoyed being a part of the experience.
Another day we helped out at a local hospital ministry, Hospitalito Atitlan. We had contacted them ahead of time to ask if there was a way we could help with our group of various ages – and yes, they had work for all of us! We moved boxes, cleaned shelves and sorted supplies. Our kids – who complain about doing regular chores at home, mind you – stepped up and worked willingly. It was a blessing to see the way this ministry was helping the local community, and it was thrilling for all of us to be involved in helping them, even if it was just for a few hours.
Some friends think we’re a bit nutty, taking our kids on an international mission trip. We’re certainly not career missionaries who’ve had extensive training or anything. And some friends want to put us up on a pedestal, dismissing our trip with an “I’d never be able to do that” attitude. But if there is one thing I know, it’s this: You can do whatever God calls you to do! If you find yourself with a pitter-patter in your heart when you think of experiencing other cultures or serving the poor or helping others do something you know how to do, then you might just be called to missions… and you might be called to do it even now while your kids are young.
When it comes to funds: If you can save for Disney World, you can save for this! We spent more on our Disney World trip last year – driving, than this trip – flying. Also, be sure to share your plans with others. Allow God to provide. He will!
And as for children: Kids are resilient and flexible, and they reflect your attitude. Preparing yourself and your children for the trip by just talking through things and setting expectations is all it takes for all of you to do just fine. We should take Jesus’ advice when it comes to finding our children’s place in ministry and missions. Children are as much a part of the church as any of us, and they have much to contribute and to teach us when it comes to reaching beyond our comfort zones in cross-cultural experiences. Children are excited about new relationships and experiences. They are bold and they help lead the way in breaking down barriers. Bringing our children on this trip was a blessing to us all!
Our Guatemalan mission vacation was a wonderful trip, which I hope is only the beginning of our international travels as a family. We’re not super-parents, super-Christians or super-missionaries. We’re just lovers of God and lovers of people, who felt the tug on our hearts to share with the people of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. And so we did.
By Kim Verriere, a member of First Baptist Church in Richardson, Texas.
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