Maybe somewhere in a box at my mom's house is a picture of me, in all my awkwardness, in my brand new Banana Republic khaki shorts and t-shirt (with a map, of course), going on my first mission trip the summer I finished 6th grade. It was a rite of passage at Rock Prairie Church, going on Caravan. Along with my other nervous 6th grade friends we joined in the carpools as a part of God's Glenmhor Gang, going to Canada. I remember that each car was stocked with a goodie bag full of snacks. At each rest stop we had to switch cars to meet new kids and drivers.
I don't know if that mission trip was my first time doing service work. It's certainly possible. My parents actively volunteered in the community and certainly encouraged me to take a week of my summer vacation to volunteer (or to get out of the house - it's a tough call). I remember we spent most of our time on that trip reroofing the massive dining hall. There I was, climbing up a ladder, onto a roof. A roof! A roof in another country, at that.
Fast forward to today. At 9pm tonight the youth mission trip at Wellshire Presbyterian departs for Joplin, MO. I'll be on the bus. Along with a whole bunch of excited youth whose Facebook posts today include, "so excited for this week!!!"
Mission trips are a wonderful experience for youth. Going someplace new, working together, and serving others, is a gift. It's time away from your phone. Your family. Your laptop. You'll sweat. You'll laugh. You'll do a cannon ball into the pool. It's a summer tradition in many churches around the country. It also teaches kids - and adults - the importance of giving your time.
Learning to make service a priority starts early. And then it becomes a part of a routine. From the person who reads to others at the library, the classroom volunteer, the habitat builder to the soup kitchen cook. Service can be big or small. It's an important part of community. Including mine.
Now I’m begging for forgiveness
I wanna make a difference even in the smallest way
I’m only one person, but I can feel it working
I believe in better days
That’s why I pray
-Big & Rich "That's Why I Pray"