My wife, Stacy, and I believe that the best investment you can make in education is to go with your child on an international mission trip. Raising four children on a relatively modest income does not allow us to put much aside for college educations or retirement. Yet we believe, if it is God’s will, He will provide a way for us to be able to accompany each of our four children on an international missions adventure before they begin high school.
In the summer of 2010, our then 14-year-old son, Tim, and I had the opportunity to travel together to South Asia as part of a volunteer team from Parkway Baptist Church in Moseley, Va.
The investment of time and resources already has produced fruit in Tim’s life and for God’s kingdom. The dividends have already been huge!
Trip preparation required that Tim and I read books about missions and culture. We also practiced sharing our personal testimonies and led our group in devotions. Tim stepped out early and represented youthful enthusiasm well (as long as there were good snacks at each training session).
Traveling side by side for 25 hours (each way) gave Tim and me plenty of opportunities to get to know each other better. We shared anxious anticipation, excitement, laughter and many entirely new experiences along the way.
Sensory overload — every view was filled with people. Every breath was laced with that unique South Asia aroma. The noise of car horns, rickshaw bells and people shouting filled our ears.
Culture shock — walking through busy streets and marketplaces gave us an opportunity to see life lived in ways we’ve never experienced. We struggled to process all we encountered as the locals gathered to check us out. Because we were obviously foreigners, our presence drew much attention. Many wanted to know about us. The most capable English speaker in each crowd would engage in dialogue. After pleasant greetings, we were able to ask about their faith and ultimately share about our faith in Jesus Christ.
In the days that followed, we visited towns and villages. We shared the Gospel with individuals, families, small groups and large crowds. We visited tea stalls, temples, markets and homes. We showed the JESUS film to several hundred people in the courtyard of a Hindu temple and in the common area of a small village. We were asked by leaders to leave another village before showing the JESUS film because “there will be trouble here tomorrow if you show the film.”
Tim and I were able to process the encounters together and with our team. We were excited to share Christ but overwhelmed by the enormity of what would be required to truly “make disciples” in this land. Hundreds of locals responded to our presence, Gospel presentations, the JESUS film and the tracts we distributed. But the question that lingers for Tim — and for me — is what one local asked: “Who will come and tell us more?”
My heart swells with pride when I think of my son sharing the Gospel with folks in a village on the other side of the world. I still marvel at his question for a Hindu swami: “But when do you know you’ve prayed enough?” I smile each time I think of the crowd that was attracted to his muddy soccer game. Every father should experience moments like this with his son or daughter.
There are peoples, places and cultures that can be most effectively reached by men who are willing to set aside the American dream for kingdom pursuits. I challenge men in this country and around the world to measure their manhood against a biblical model rather than contemporary culture. Men must set the standard and lead by example. When men become spiritually alive in Christ, they will invest significantly in their own spiritual growth as well as the spiritual growth of their wives and children.
At the conclusion of our father/son missions adventure, the men on our team joined me in praying over Tim; seven men praying over one young man. We agreed to encourage him and stand with him in his walk with Christ.
We know that Tim’s view of the world and his faith were forever impacted by our trip. We don’t know what God’s plan is for his life, but Stacy and I pray we will release him to whatever that call might be.
For the rest of our lives, Tim and I will share a special bond and great memories of traveling together to the other side of the world.
Tim’s younger brothers — now 10 and 12 — have pretty adventurous spirits and are looking forward to their missions adventure with Dad. At just 6, who knows how his sister will react.
In our home, we now have a greater level of awareness regarding missions. We pay closer attention to what is going on in South Asia and around the world. We even invited some international students from the Middle East to join our family for Thanksgiving last year. Tim now has personal experience and a new boldness to talk about spiritual things in secular environments, even in school in a world history class.
Now, the world is smaller and God is bigger for Tim — and for me. His mom is a little anxious, but I am excited when I hear him say, “I want to go back and talk about Jesus with people who have never heard of Him.”
Mike Young is founder of Noble Warriors, an organization focusing on men’s ministry, and a member of Parkway Baptist Church in Moseley, Va.