Dear Mission Trippers:
If all has gone well, you’re now in Colorado Springs starting your first day of real work with Next Step Ministries, and while you’re likely busy trying to figure out where you’ll fit in or why everybody else seems to know what they’re doing, I thought I would write you a letter. I realize the last thing you need is a mission trip missive from your pastor, but I’ve got to write something for the Monday e-mail blast, so I figured the rest of the congregation could read my letter to you. This way I avoid having to write two letters; sometimes you can leverage laziness to your advantage.
I would tell you all the obvious stuff, like be careful, don’t be a jerk, remember to include others, be kind, feel free to ask good questions and don’t juggle chainsaws when they’re running; but you already know these things. What I want you to know is how your experience in Colorado Springs is not only meaningful to you, but it also means a great deal to the rest of the congregation at FPCLG. Yesterday, while you were enjoying the endless beauty that is Central Nebraska (emphasis on endless), about 100 people in worship prayed for you; remember that if at any time you’re feeling alone. Yes, many of the people don’t even know all your names, but their hope isn’t any less sincere. They watch a lot of news and have some sense of how difficult life is for high school kids these days. You are at a point in your lives where there are influences, attitudes and choices that can end up making life unnecessarily more difficult. Some of these people know because they made those choices and spent a big chunk of their lives working to undo the consequences. (Confidentiality prevents me from going into detail, but believe me—some of our members were real boneheads when they were young.)
We’ve sent you over 1,000 miles away hoping to provide some experiences where you can have a great time and consider deeper dimensions of life without the distractions and clutter of home. I don’t know what you will take from this time together, but I anticipate you will have a chance to reflect on the power of cooperation, the importance of inclusion, the impact of kindness and the way God’s Spirit can turn unexpected events into great opportunity.
We know from previous mission trips that some of the memories you make will last a lifetime. But more than memories, I hope you will recall the things that made those memories possible, and so create new opportunities for community and grace. We need you to come back safe and without a need to submit damage reports on the rental vans. We also need you to come back and let us know how we did. Were our prayers answered? Did you discover some new skills or strengths? Did you find new ways to be the church in a difficult world? In the beauty, in community, in service, in celebration, did you catch a glimpse of God? Did you find ways to show your love for God by neighboring someone in need?
We’re asking because we love you. We want to know how we are doing in letting you know we love you. We want to learn from you how to be better people—a more faithful church.
We realize some of our questions won’t be answered until you are much older. We’ll be retired; some of us will be in heaven. But even then, you can provide a resounding answer to our questions by telling the next generation to raise the funds, pack the vans and discover the presence of God’s Spirit when they’re on mission.
Trying to keep your parents out of trouble while you’re away, I remain,