Go Do Something

I was almost 20 years old when it came to me. I was not in church, youth group or doing any “holy” activity. I was sitting in my Jeep Cherokee outside of the garage where I worked, looking at a tall brick building with chipped paint and a flock of noisy seagulls arguing on the roof. I was terribly unhappy, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what to do. So I did nothing. For years. Until that summer morning where it came to me as clear as crystal: “Go do something.” That was it.

I thought maybe God wanted me to go do something in “ministry” but I didn’t know what that meant or where to begin. Here is the process I used to help guide my decision. Maybe it will help you too.

  1. I spoke with people who were wise and knew me well to help me identify what I was good at.
    I heard a lot of different things, but the common theme was that I should be doing something helping people. It seemed that perhaps a career in the ministry was for me. As you listen to what the wise people in your life are telling you, make sure you are asking the question, “How will I bring God’s grace into this area of the world?” If you do this, you will always be doing God’s will.
  2. I used my common sense and began looking for colleges that could prepare me for ministry and fit my other needs as well. Your preparation may or may not include college, but it will certainly include learning. Whether it is an apprenticeship, an entry-level job or an internship, you will be learning. When looking for your place to prepare, be intentional about ensuring you have a network of Christians to help you integrate what you are learning with a Christian worldview. A church, a small group or a Christian college are all great ways to develop that network.
  3. I began to make my plans for how to go about preparing, and I prayed this prayer (and meant it with my whole heart):

God, I want to please you more than anything. I think these steps make sense for me. If you have different plans, I will follow them willingly. If this is the wrong step, make it plain to me in a way I will understand.

Your heavenly father will not reject your earnest prayer to follow his will. He loves you too much.

  1. I took the steps to begin my training and trusted God.

I can’t guarantee that the first draft of your plan is an inflexible roadmap going to where you will end up. It certainly wasn’t for me. Please remember that God is faithful and will not, under any circumstances, by any means, ever abandon you. He loves you too much. But don’t just wait. Go do something.

If you would like to have a conversation with Luke, feel free to email him at lmorgan@kuyper.edu and the two of you can chat about life, calling and different ways to prepare.

How to Prepare Spiritually for a Mission Trip

First things first: How do you prepare for a mission trip?

I’m not talking about the logistics – the fundraising plans, coordinating the ubiquitous big white youth vans – I’m talking about how you, in the midst of all that, prepare your heart, your spirit, for the work God will be doing in your own life through this experience. And not only how to prepare your own heart and spirit, but also the hearts of your students as the mission trip looms closer.

Now there’s lots of articles out there on the interwebs telling you the best way to prepare spiritually for mission trips. But many can be boiled down to: Read your Bible. Prepare to share the gospel with unbelievers. And get your students a prayer partner who will pack chocolates and uplifting notes for them during the trip.

But let’s go a little bit deeper, shall we?

Question your motives.

Yep. You heard me correctly. Question your motives. Why are you going on a mission trip? Not why you should go on a mission trip or why others are going on a mission trip. Nope. Why are you?

Is it just another item on the List of Things Every Good Christian Should Do? Want to go play White Savior with the poor people? Be the hero? For students specifically: Do you simply want to travel and a mission trip is easily approved by the parental units? Or, more positively: Do you want to learn about other cultures? To learn something about yourself?

Examine your heart. Your reasons. Your motivations. We are complex creatures with complex motives. Examining your own reasons for signing up for a mission trip – whether you’re a leader or a student – is essential for preparing your own heart for the trip and opening yourself to what God may have planned for you through the experience.

2. Pray intentionally for the people and places you will visit.

I’m not talking about general prayers like “We pray tonight for Nicaragua” without having any idea what’s going on in Nicaragua, let alone the specific region and cities you will actually be visiting.

Whether you’re going somewhere outside of North America, like Nicaragua, or you’re going to a different neighborhood in your own hometown, get to know the prayers and needs of the people living there.

If you’re going local, take your students (or go yourself), on a prayer walk around the neighborhood you’ll be serving. Connect with long-time residents and hear their stories. Don’t stay strangers until the day you strap on work boots and color-coordinated team shirts.

If you’re going global, read the BBC World section or the New York Times International coverage for your country’s region. Find and follow recommended Twitter accounts from folks in country. Learn and listen to the national conversation. If you live near a place like Toronto, seek out immigrant communities in your own backyard – attend a Haitian church service, taste mole and pico de gallo at a local Mexican restaurant.

Get to know the people and places you will visit on a mission trip so that your prayers for them may come from knowledge and compassion, not ignorance and disinterest. Intentional prayer cultivates empathy, curiosity, and awareness which are essential attitudes to pack alongside those coordinated team shirts.

3. Ask for a word.

Instead of opening your Bible and searching for a meaningful verse on your own, seek out a wise person in your life – a pastor, a mentor, an insightful friend – and ask them for a word.

Ask them to pray about and discern a Scripture passage to assign to you. Then receive that word. Read it. Mediate on it. Live with it. Carry it with you. Even when you have no idea why this supposedly “wise” person would give you such a dull passage! Or so you think….until you’re packing your bag or listening to someone’s story and the Spirit brings the words of that passage to mind and you hear the voice of God for you in that moment.

In all this, remember that God is at work in this world and we have the privilege and invitation to witness to that work when we’re on a mission trip. May your eyes be opened and your hearts moved by the Spirit as you glimpse the mission of our God.

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Rev. Amanda Bakale is the youth and young adult engagement coordinator at World Renew. Based in Kitchener, Ontario, this former West Michigan girl loves her bi-national identity, her Canadian husband, and cheering for the Toronto Blue Jays in the midst of all her Detroit Tigers-lovin’ friends and family.

Preparing Ourselves for Short Term Missions

Over the past year, various people from youth ministry backgrounds have offered their collective voices to the content of this Youth Ministry Network blog. We hope you have found it to be helpful and encouraging.

For April we will continue the conversation but have invited some new voices to the page.

The spring and summer months are often filled with teens and their leaders heading off to “far away” or “just down the street” places where youth and leaders alike are stretched physically and spiritually as they embark on journeys typically called “Short Term” mission trips.

Many challenges often accompany these trips so the idea was to invite writers in to share about how we as ministry leaders can prepare ourselves, and our youth, for such experiences. Preparation for mission trips is not just about fundraising and packing one’s bags before departing. It’s much more than that and you will read some insights into this over the weeks to come.

Within the denomination there is a collaborative energy taking place between organizations like Youth Unlimited, ServiceLink, World Renew and others, to embrace something called “The Seven Standards of Excellence for Short Term Missions” (SOE), which is a tool to help churches and organizations develop best practices as they seek to serve Jesus by serving others. During this month you will read about these seven standards, along with other observations and concepts.

So let me introduce you to those who will lead us in our Youth Ministry blog for April and the first week of May:

  • Rev. Amanda Bakale (World Renew): Amanda is a Youth and Young Adult Engager (she is also connected with YALT and is a regular tweeter).
  • Jerry Meadows (Youth Unlimited): Jerry is “The SERVE guy” and is very well connected with all things “short-term mission” related.
  • Carol Sybenga (ServiceLink Program Manager): Carol is a former youth ministry director and works for ServiceLink, which is the bi-national volunteer services program of the Christian Reformed Church.
  • Jolene deHeer (www.jolenedeheer.com): Jolene is a Youth Unlimited speaker and author.

During their time with us over the next number of weeks, these wonderfully gifted contributors will share about various practical, theoretical and spiritual practices that can help us be prepared for our short-term mission trips.

Please join us for our look at “missions” preparation.

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Ron deVries works for Classis Alberta North as the Youth Ministry Consultant and have done so since 2007. He also serves as a Faith Formation Coach for the Denomination. Monique, his wonderfully supportive wife, and he have been married since 1985. They have 2 incredible children, Amanda and Shawn. Amanda married Matt and Shawn married Roxanne, so now they have and share 4 incredible children. They are also grandparents to the cutest puppy you will ever meet, Doozer.