Tomorrow at 12:19 p.m. will be the beginning of the greatest adventure of my young son's life.
He's going to Teen Missions.
He's the fourth child of mine to go on a summer mission trip with TMI. I wish I could send them all every summer, and not just because my grocery bill would be drastically cut. Although that would make it worthwhile.
Our experience with TMI began in 2001, when our oldest daughter, then 14, announced she wanted to go on a summer mission trip the following year. We immediately jumped on board with that great idea, and helped her research who she would go with. Making a very long story very short here, we found that Baptist missions wouldn't take teenagers. They had no Bible college education. They had no experience. Blah, blah, blah. We were disgusted. A full year passed and we were no closer than when we started.
Then a good friend told us that, when she was a teen, she went on a two-month mission trip with TMI. We began to look into that organization and decided it was a good fit. Deb had said she wanted to go to Russia, and one of the TMI teams for 2003 was scheduled to go to Yakutsk, Siberia. Deb signed up, and we began preparations—raising support, gathering supplies, spending an entire school year studying Russian in hopes she could at least ask where the rest room was.
Three weeks before her trip, we got the news that TMI was unable to get visas to enter Russia. The trip was cancelled, and Deb had to choose a different destination. We encouraged her to pray about it, and she came back to us saying she felt like the Lord wanted her to go to Cuba.
Ben told her she needed to pray about that a little more, but she would not be swayed.
Cuba. Home of Fidel Castro and a military that is not terribly friendly to Americans, especially the children of American military members. We kept telling ourselves that if God could keep her safe in Virginia, he could keep her safe in Cuba.
So off she went. Two weeks of primitive boot camp in the hot, humid swamps of Florida, followed by 30 days in communist Cuba, where the "missionary" could be bought by the highest bidder and wouldn't give them their water purifier or half of their supplies. They lived for 30 days on rice and beans, until the day they noticed meat in the rice/bean pot. Deb tried to ask one of the Cuban Christians what it was, and he pointed to the stray dogs running around. They ate it without talking. The entire team contracted a nasty virus that kept many of them bedridden for days and caused a few to pass out when they tried to get up, and Deb came home with an intestinal parasite.
Teen Missions teams are not for the faint of heart. They are designed to introduce teenagers to the realities of the mission field, including the incredible need around the world for Christians to preach the Gospel. Kids learn that they are not the center of the universe, or even their youth groups. They learn to think of themselves last. They learn to be thankful for any meat, even if it's dog. Deb was forever changed by her 30 days in Cuba.
The next year, Leah went with TMI to Poland. The following, Abbie and Deb went to New Zealand and Australia.
This year, Elijah travels to Switzerland after his 2 weeks at The Lord's Bootcamp, which begin tomorrow. Some have suggested that it will be an easy sightseeing trip. That it's a waste of time and money.
But we anticipate he will come back with a new perspective on the need, even in a "wealthy" country, for the good news that Jesus saves sinners. And that's worth any price.
Be thankful ~