I was fresh out of high school and on a medical mission trip to Papua New Guinea. We were sitting cross-legged in the dirt, being watched by the people that surrounded us. I had a stethoscope, an otoscope and a handful of simple medications – ready to listen and examine and diagnose as best I could with limited resources.
My next patient would change my life forever. His name was Smith, and he was an orphan living with HIV/AIDs. He was 10, but appeared about 4. He had scabies, viral warts and possibly tuberculosis. He was severely malnourished and there was not a whole lot I could do for him. I rubbed cream into his skin, I prayed for him, and I made him laugh. Then, afterwards, when I was out of sight and ear-shot, I cried my heart out to the Lord.
That trip and that little boy changed my opinion and perspective about the whole world and everything in it. It changed the trajectory of my life.
Here at CFCI we are passionate about a lot of things; missions, matching skills and passions with global need, equipping churches, and reaching people with the Gospel (among many others!). However, all of these things fall under our greatest passion: Jesus, and what He’s doing in the nations.
We take the call of Jesus and the Great Commission in Matthew 28: 18-20 very seriously. Under this call our mission is to transform cities by transforming lives.
This is why we operate in 16 nations but are always looking to expand. This is why we have over 132 ministries, meeting people’s holistic needs. And this is why we send over 2,000 people every year on short and long-term mission trips. It starts and ends with Jesus.
We send all demographics on trips: church groups, sports teams, couples, families, individuals, friends and most importantly for this article: youth.
For over 20 years we have been sending youth on mission trips outside of and within the United States. Here’s why:
THEY’RE FIGURING THINGS OUT
It’s no secret that the teenage years are full of figuring things out. Teenagers tread the rocky waters between childhood and adulthood, decision making, their opinions, and their personhood. It is a time of great transformation that can set a person’s life course either on, or off, the right track. It was that case for me, absolutely.
There’s no better time to take somebody on a mission trip – when they are seeking answers and setting life’s foundations.
The vast majority of people who become Christians do so before they turn 18. This is no coincidence. It’s a perfect time, as they’re still figuring things out to give them some of the answers (about God, themselves, the world and the purpose of their lives) that they are searching for (whether they know it or not).
IT MAKES IT REAL
‘It’ can apply to a lot of different things here, like: God, poverty, diversity, suffering, disease, homelessness, persecution, the Word of God.
Taking teenagers away from the comfort of everything they have ever known exposes them to the realities of this world, and God’s response to it.
Until you see, touch, taste, hear and smell people and situations that are unfamiliar to you, it doesn’t affect you. And until it affects you, it won’t change you, which brings us to number three:
IT INSTILLS THANKFULNESS AND CATALYSES AN ATTITUDE SHIFT
Here at CFCI, we receive a never-ending list of teenage testimonies about gratefulness and thankfulness after coming home from mission trips. Here are just a couple:
“The Urban Plunge made me take a deeper look at myself and reevaluate how I live.” – Lake Mead Christian Academy
“It made me see things in different ways and think more about my life and the way I’m living it.” – Our Savior’s Lutheran Church
“It me realize how blessed I am, and what the Holy Spirit can do in your life.” – Lake Mead Christian Academy
When the suffering, sadness, hope and truth become real to teenagers, they can’t help but be transformed by the power of gratitude and thanks. But it doesn’t stop there.
Seeing and experiencing reality then catalyses an attitude shift that they will carry for the rest of their lives. It truly transforms people.
I remember a conversation I had with a teenager after she came back from El Salvador.
“I have so many jeans,” she said, “expensive jeans, $100 pairs of jeans, and these people have nothing…. I don’t need all that…stuff.”
Now? A few years later, she’s studying intercultural missions at university and currently is on a one-month placement in Ecuador, working with women who’ve been rescued out of human trafficking.
Being faced with a global reality instills a thankful perspective which catalyses an attitude shift, which leads to number 4.
IT SHOWS YOUTH HOW GOD CAN USE THEM
Age is no boundary to the Lord and there is no “junior” Holy Spirit. Mission trips have an incredible way of showing teenagers how God can use their lives for His Kingdom. It forces them out of their seats and into the streets to do things they’ve never done before, and probably didn’t think they could – like pray for the homeless, explain the Gospel, preach in front of a crowd, or even more simply – make a difference.
Mission trips teach what Bible lessons and simply listening can never do: God wants to use you, now do it.
Plus, this isn’t limited to the mission field. In fact, our aim is for it not to be. We want all of our students to go home inspired and equipped about how God can use them, wherever they are.
Here’s a few more examples of what we are talking about:
“The Urban Plunge opened my eyes to the struggles in Omaha and made me realize more of what I want to do with my life.” – Nebraska Christian College
“The trip made me realize all the possibilities we have to serve at home. It also reminded me of the importance of listening to every person’s story and not lumping people into a group.” – Vermontville Bible Church
“Now I want to go back home and talk about Jesus!” – Badger Lutheran
“This mission trip inspired me to open a non-profit in the future for my community.” – Lake Mead Christian Academy.
“People are broken and hurting, and I want to take what I have learned back to my own city to help the broken there.” – Third City Christian Church
Being faced with a global reality instills a thankful perspective which catalyses an attitude shift which leads to vision and action, wherever they are.
IT BUILDS COMMUNITY
This point is much less spiritual, but still an undeniable mission trip by-product. Mission trips bring people together like nothing else. Shared experiences, especially those that put people out of their comfort zones, can’t help but bring people together and unite entire teams.
We couldn’t say it any better than this:
“The Urban Plunge showed me how strong everyone can be when we come together to do God’s work.” – First Presbyterian Church, Huron
WE WOULD LOVE TO SEND YOUR YOUTH ON A MISSION TRIP! WE HAVE 2 OPTIONS:
The Urban Plunge
We run weekend and week-long trips to 9 different cities within the USA: Chicago, Dallas, Des Moines, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Lincoln, Omaha, Phoenix and Sioux Falls. We partner each group with 6-10 different local ministry partners, which will see your youth doing a huge variety of things, including praying with the homeless, spending time with the elderly, packaging meals for international aid, folding clothes at a thrift store, feeding service animals and so much more. Each trip is accompanied by a trained facilitator to lead the logistics of your experience, and we arrange all the details: food, accommodation and schedule.
Bring your youth on a global missions adventure to Argentina, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru or Zimbabwe. You pick your dates and the type of ministry, including children’s ministry, sports, construction, orphanage work, day camps and more.