Summer is coming into its final stretch. Two a day football workouts start Monday. Marching band members will soon be practicing as well. The state of Texas will offer a tax free weekend to stimulate shopping this month. School begins August 22nd.
A lot of teens have spent their summers going to camps of all kinds. There is basketball camp, band camp, and football camps of all kinds. Church camp is often figured into that mix. I suspect there is even an under water basket weaving camp for all age groups.
I am thankful that a lot of teens have also had the privilege of going on mission trips too. I have taken high school students to Mexico in the past. In more recent years, our own church kids have gone on trips that focused on outreach to the under age 21 homeless population. There are significant needs in that realm of service.
When I was on a recent trip back to Wisconsin, I heard about a group of students from a church going on an annual mission effort to the Appalachia area. It sent chills down my spine. My grandmother was the principal for a mission boarding school that the Presbyterian Church operated in Letcher County Kentucky, near Blackey. I toured the area about three years ago for the very first time. Many of the children Stuart Robinson School hosted would not have had a clean, warm place to sleep in the 1930's and 1940's when she was there.
During the course of the trip this particular group of teenagers decided to use some of their allotted funds to purchase a permanent type “stove” or heating mechanism for someone in that area that would otherwise not have heat this winter. There were consequences to their choice. They spent the funds that would have otherwise been used for a hotel on part of their trip. They had to stay in people’s homes while traveling to Appalachia instead of enjoying the comfort and privacy of a hotel stay.
I don’t know who guided them through that decision. Did adult sponsors provide them with that option? Did the student participants initiate the idea? It really does not make any difference. I am of a mind that a simple, but important act of compassion like that will stay with them for years to come. I also think it is important that they had to sacrifice something in order to help someone else. Sacrifice is a key element in this story, and will add to the power of the memory.
I suppose the kids on this trip could have bowed their backs and stated adamantly: “I have a right to sleep where I want to sleep!” “And I want to sleep in a hotel!” That is an accurate perception. It could have happened. But in the case of this particular group of young people from Wisconsin that was not the case. They are obviously mature and spiritually sensitive children. Choosing to sacrifice something for someone else could become habit forming for them. And why do I think there is a strong possibility that is just the case here?
This group will start school in a much different frame of mind than most. Mission trips provide an experience that sports and band camps simply cannot do. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for this great group of students from Wisconsin! I do know that they are eager to return next summer for still another life changing experience.