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Teens on a Mission from God

One of the many great lines from the classic movie The Blues Brothers was one that was delivered by Dan Ackroyd when he was explaining the importance of their need to get their blues band back together. He always explained that it was because, “We’re on a mission from God.” But humor aside, across this country from literally thousands of churches each summer, youth groups head out on trips, some far away and some across town to offer community service in the name of their mission of spreading the word about their faith. Now whether you subscribe to the religious views of these many bright eyed teenagers, you have to admit that seeing such an army of youth spending their summer weeks working to help others rather than just hanging out at the pool or making trouble for their parents is a positive thing for everyone concerned. From a religious perspective, one of the great values of a mission trip for teenagers is that it gives them a chance to genuinely use their faith in service of others. Most religious doctrines include a dedication to service to mankind in one form or another.

Most of the mission trips that are sponsored from American churches are Christian in nature. And the Christian faith definitely includes teaching that all followers should reach out to the poor and to those less fortunate than themselves as part of their devotion to God. So taking an organized group of young people out to offer service to the poor, to another culture or even overseas to a disadvantaged area makes those teachings from the church much more real. Even for those who may not subscribe to Christianity, it is clear that a faith that gets out and puts its muscle into community service is a faith that, to borrow a phrase, “puts it money where its mouth is.” Beyond the religious aspects of the value of such mission trips, there are many tremendous values that are the outcome of mobilizing a group of teenagers to go and help others as part of a community service effort.

Some of those values are… * It teaches the value of work. When youth are given shovels or paint brushes and they have to work 8-10 hours in the hot sun to help other people, they learn a lot about what hard work means and the great things that can come from hard work. This is a lesson that can never been taught as well via lectures or reading a book. It is a lesson best caught not taught. * It teaches them to work together. Community service projects almost always involves working in teams. As teens begin to bond with their fellow missionaries that are both other teens who are older and younger and with hard working adults, those divisions between generations and between each other melt away as they work hard and enjoy the fun of really doing something worthwhile. * It gives them a glimpse into the lives of others. Universally when teenagers return from a mission trip, they come back changed after seeing how others less fortunate than they live. This is a big growing experience and one that will only happen in a dramatic, face to face encounter such as they have on the mission field.

We cannot overlook that one of the big values of putting tens of thousands of teenagers into the field to do community service each summer is that many poor, disadvantaged or down and out people get much needed help from an army of kids eager to serve because they are doing it from their reverence for their religious beliefs. The bonding that happens on mission trips isn’t just between the team and each other and it’s leadership. Those receiving the help will bond with the mission teams in ways that none involved will ever forget. And that has value that are probably even greater than the work that got done. Those are eternal values. PPPPP 673 .


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