My wife and I determined years ago to find an overseas mission trip for each of our children at least once during their teen years. We want our kids to learn to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ, especially in a more challenging and uncomfortable context than the westside of Cleveland. We see value in opening their eyes to other cultures and seeing firsthand that the Lord is building His kingdom around the world. We also thought it important to take them out of their comfortable American life, to hopefully help them gain appreciation for the myriad blessings they have in the U.S. and see that a rich and contented Christian life does not depend on our external circumstances (Philippians 4:11-13). Finally, both my wife and I appreciate the spiritual growth and formation that can occur in times of intense, dedicated service.
We were grateful to find an opportunity for my son, Trent, and I through Paradise Bound Ministries (PBM). This organization, based out of Zeeland, Michigan, offers weekly trips for groups of about 20 people to head into the mountains of Guatemala to minister to families both physically through building homes and spiritually through sharing the gospel. Before we left the United States, we were given the name of the Guatemalan family that we would be serving so that we could begin to pray for our time with them and also purchase gifts and necessities to furnish their new home. Our family was a single mom, Dorcas, and her four children.
For the majority of our week, Trent and I, along with 4 others in our group, built a simple, one-room home for this family of five. We erected the frame, hung drywall, put on the roof, and painted the interior walls. Once the house was built we also learned the art of stucco! We spent that day working assembly-line style to cover the dwelling in this sticky substance. Tiring but fun! Once the home was complete, we took a full day to dedicate the home to Dorcas and her family with a true fiesta. More importantly, the day encompassed personal testimonies (via translator) and a local pastor presenting the gospel and praying for the family, for the home, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ would take root in their lives.
We finished out the week by traveling to area villages to set up clinics to dispense medical supplies and reading glasses. On those days, we also spent time playing with the children, coordinating a Vacation Bible School with a gospel presentation by a local pastor, and handing out Spanish Bibles.
What I appreciated about PBM was their commitment to God’s Word and His church. They work closely with the local pastors so the people who received the dwellings and medical supplies are not left to themselves. The pastors will follow up and continue to minister to the precious souls whom we served. I look forward to supporting them in the future and perhaps helping on another mission trip.
Of course, what made the trip especially meaningful was time spent with my 16-year-old son. We had one-on-one time during our travels—something that can quickly fall by the wayside when kids gain the independence that comes with adolescence. I observed him reading his Bible and praying during the personal devotion times built into our schedule each day, and most notably, I observed him pushing past a language barrier to serve and love the Guatemalans. I am convinced that WCA has played a significant part in the spiritual formation of this young man who agreed to travel with his dad to another country with people whom he had never met, not knowing exactly what he would be doing. I believe his growth in Christ prepared him to take this step of faith, and I pray that the Lord will use this experience to prepare Trent for future service of Christ and His church.
This year’s WCA theme is taken from Revelation 7:9, “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” How fitting that my son and I were able to take this trip while this was WCA’s theme verse! I pray that both Trent and I have a greater appreciation for the Lord’s work around the world and desire to see this verse fulfilled. Soli Deo gloria!