It is better than Disney World

February 15, 2011

I have taken five of my seven children with me to Africa. I took one to Ghana, and the other four went to Kenya in various years beginning in 2002. Judah and Susanna are next. When they go with me to Africa, however, it will not be their first experience on the mission field, because they have been to Colombia, South America. We had the privilege for 10 days in January of taking most of our family to serve with Jorge and Karen Silva in Bocachica, an island off the coast of Cartagena. Cindy said as we left for the airport that morning, “This is the first time I haven’t had to say goodbye in 25 years.” The team of 20 from Antioch Community Church consisted of three sets of parents and at least two children from each family, as well as a father and his daughter, another father, and several young single adults. Each of the parents on the trip would agree: There is nothing like serving the Lord with your family in a cross-cultural context. One father said, “It’s better than a trip to Disney World.”
I can think of at least four reasons why a family mission trip is better than a trip to an amusement park. First, we go to serve, not to be served. I love Disney World, don’t get me wrong. But when I go there I expect to be catered to and entertained. I am spending a small fortune, after all, so I expect to have a full day of nonstop pleasure. When I go to the mission field, I expect to sweat in the hot sun pouring concrete or digging latrines. I expect to have to take bucket showers. I expect to flush toilets with salt water. I expect to speak through a translator in church services and encounter language barriers with my very limited understanding of Spanish or Swahili or whatever, and to overcome those barriers with smiles and hugs. I expect to serve.
Second, there is no better place to have your heart for the world expanded than the mission field in another culture. My children have all come back from mission trips with a world vision, not just a Burlington vision. Jesus said to his disciples in Samaria, “Lift up your eyes and see the fields, for they are already white for harvest.” A mission trip lifts the gaze.
Third, there is nothing like a trip to another culture to make you appreciate the blessing of your own. “I am ashamed of how much I take for granted” is a typical comment we hear from those who travel to another place where people typically exist on one or two dollars per day. Seeing that motivates you to live more simply and give more freely.
Fourth, serving on the mission field as a family increases our vision for serving God here as a family. Jorge Silva lamented that almost all the teams who come are comprised of young people and one or two adult leaders. “It is so helpful for our mission and the people we serve to see whole families coming here,” he said. “They watch your marriages and how you interact and work together as a family, and they are blessed by that.” Oh, not half as much as we are blessed by it, Jorge.
Here’s my challenge. Take that money you would have spent on yourselves at Disney or in the Bahamas and invest in the kingdom of God. Go on a family mission trip. It will change your life. It will change your family.