For the past several years, I have taken off a week in July to go on a domestic mission campaign with our youth group. It’s an exhilarating and exhausting week, filled with miles of walking to knock on doors and invite families to bring or send their children to VBS. Most campaigns also involve daily activities such as free car washes, hair cuts, health screenings, and handing out food to families in need. The adults in the group usually help prepare meals for our youth workers and then participate in the VBS skits and teach classes for the kids that attend. As chaperones, we also administer first aid, impromptu counseling, do late-night laundry, and offer exhortations to “clean up your room and make your bed!” to the peeps put in our care. Each of those years I’ve gone, one or two of my own chiildren have been among the hard-working youth group. If you’ve never been on a mission trip, I highly recommend it – it’s a fantastic way to put faith into action and carry out the Great Commission.
It’s also a bit of a social experiment. We operate on about 6 hours of shut-eye each night, with every day and night crammed full of physical and mental activity. After a few days, it’s interesting to observe how the usual posturing and social hierarchy that defines and delineates us drops away and everyone begins to draw strength from one another. It works a certain kind of magic: eyerolling and snarky comments become less frequent, replaced by hugs and friendly back pats; quick offers to help one another become the norm. I guess utter exhaustion is what it takes to break down our natural barriers and become truly “close-knit” brothers and sisters.
This year I already knew I wasn’t going because of prior commitments here at home. But the youngest was eagerly looking forward to the campaign (and I had several moms lined up to keep a motherly eye out for her.) But today we confirmed she has contracted mono/Epstein-Barr Virus and that has sidelined us both. So instead of being there to help, we’ll spend a quiet week, with her regaining her strength, and both of us sending good thoughts and prayers for our group in Owensboro. We hope their efforts are successful and bring some new families into contact with the local congregation there, but to tell the truth, it’s not much fun being a bench warmer!