Ten summers of mission trips. It seems like only yesterday that we took our first twenty-six hour van ride….ahhh, I can smell the teen spirit just thinking about it.

We’ve worked with some great organizations, driven countless miles, traveled by air, piled in school buses, and thanked the good Lord every time we returned with all (or most) of the students intact and safe in the church parking lot.

I’ve always felt like camp and mission trips are the sweet spots of youth ministry, where head and heart meet hands and a beautiful connection is made for teenagers to tag back to in their memories as they grapple with their faith into young adulthood.

The worth has been cumulative over the years but last summer has been the highlight of ministry for me and by sharing it with you, I hope it reminds you of your own highlights, or lifts you up to a place where you can see something like this happening for your students.

I also hope that in the telling it would light a fire under you to get that next mission trip on the books.

A little birdie goes a long way…

Last summer we decided to change things up a little and take our students on a mission trip with an organization that we hadn’t worked with before. (Christ In Youth) We signed up for Know Sweat.

The whole deal was fantastic and wonderfully intentional. But the thing that set the evening program a part was the work CIY had done to put together a film to teach teenagers about the clean water crisis in Zambia, Africa. A short film was shown called “Zambia’s Song“. It was a touching depiction of one young girls struggle for clean water. After the film, our students who had been hearing Christ’s call all week to become Kingdom workers, were asked how they might help.

What will you do with your gifts?

One of our teenagers, 12 year old Emily, was listening. She thought to herself, “I can sew”. After returning home and pitching her idea to her mom she pitched her idea to me.
She and a friend–Allyson wanted to sew and sell handmade birds to raise money to purchase bio-sand filters for people in Zambia–through an organization called Active Water. Her proposal was sweet. I told her $2 a bird seemed a little low. “Let’s shoot for $5 a bird I suggested.” They wanted to call it “Birds of Hope“and their goal was to raise $500. That would be about six filters–effecting the lives of about one hundred people.

We started a facebook group, got a little logo (thanks CEDESIGN), the girls started sewing and the coolest thing happened.

They met their goal.

We celebrated together as a church on stage. Not only had they met their goal but they had surpassed it by $500 in only a couple of weeks!

Five months and a few thousand birds later…

Emily, Allyson, and their dedicated families are close to turning in $11,000.00.

In essence, they’ll be able to provide the people of Zambia with about 138 bio-sand filters–that’s over 2,000 people who won’t be sick because our girls said “yes”.

I believe a mission trip gave them the opportunity to get some head space, grow in the Word, be exposed to the call for kingdom workers, and feel encouraged to do whatever it is they can with what they have right here on earth, right now.

You can follow the Birds of Hope story from beginning to today on facebook–but the thing that makes this story so great is that God did the work. I had all sorts of plans that week but God wanted me to get Emily there so He could begin the work in her heart. God wanted me to get Allyson to a place where she could sense the urgency of the Kingdom and do something about it.

I’m blessed to be a part of what the Holy Spirit has done in these girls’ hearts. It has nothing to do with me but I like to think that God uses us as bridges for the work that will be done through the lives of our teenagers.

Get ready for summer. It’s right around the corner. You just never know what fruit will be on the vine because you did…

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