Honduras In Review (Abby)

Recently I went to Honduras with a group of our high school students. I have been using my site as a place for them to write about their experience. If you missed the first post in this series be sure to go back and read it. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Abby Camara.

20045747_1925203837493671_6449662331118335399_o“This summer I took on one of the most challenging adventures of my life, I accomplished a mission trip to Siguatepeque, Honduras. I learned many new things on this trip which God taught me and I would have never been able to learn in the states. God also helped me take many new risks as His follower. When I was on this trip the team quickly became my family and we were as close as could be. During this trip I shared my testimony out loud for the very first time. This was a huge step in my life because some things that are in my testimony I don’t feel comfortable sharing with everyone. Although on this trip I felt like I belonged with everyone on my team in Honduras. I learned many different things throughout the week as I started to tell my story to others, I learned that you cannot be a superhero all by yourself. You cannot change the world, only God can do that. You cannot be your own superhero, God is your superhero. Sometimes you have to totally rely and trust in God, while I found myself only giving some parts of my life to God, I needed to start giving it all to him. I could trust my Savior with anything I needed in my life and he would take my trials and make something good out of them. I also realized on this trip that God will use many situations that he gives you in mysterious ways to help you and others throughout your life. As I shared my testimony with my peers and leaders I ended up helping other people as it proved to others that if you worship the Lord, you can get truly get through anything. All you need is the constant love of the Lord and you can make it happen. God gave me so many blessings on this trip by meeting amazing people such as a women named Elsy, a mother of 6 orphans who lives at La Providencia with her family. Elsy inspired me not only as an incredible mother but in her walk with God, there was a language barrier between me and Elsy but you could see Jesus shining through her wherever she was. She is an inspiration to me as I grow older and want to adopt my own children. Another person who I was completely blessed to meet on my trip to Honduras was JG. JG was my LeaderTreks leader who lived in Honduras and did trips all summer. He changed my way of looking at many situations. As I started to share my testimony and open up more throughout the week he non- stop showed his compassion and love for me. Whenever I needed help he was always there for me, and constantly challenged me to grow spiritually. He saw parts of me that I couldn’t see, such as my ability to be a leader even when I would get stressed very easily and want to give up. Thank you JG for not only changing my perspective on the role of God in my life, but also on myself and how I affect a team. In Honduras I learned a lot, but mostly I learned that I need to sometimes give it to God. Where a problem that I will be keeping for myself to try and figure out, I need to give it to God and have him help me through it. Which made all of the difference of my trip.”

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Honduras In Review (Laura)

Recently I went to Honduras with a group of our high school students. I have been using my site as a place for them to write about their experience. If you missed the first post in this series be sure to go back and read it. Below is a few thoughts from another student who went on this trip named Laura Dudones.

20157470_1927125607301494_8407442497557738144_o“God’s timing is so perfect. This fact is the biggest thing I saw during my week in Honduras. I have seen how much I have grow, and the way God used everything I have been through to help me serve Him. On the second day, I was challenged to share my testimony in front of some team members I didn’t know very well, and a few strangers from a different team who was there, and it was one of the most difficult things for me to do, but I knew I could do it, and I knew there was a reason I had been challenged. This lead to forming deeper relationships with my team members, and even lead to an amazing opportunity to share with one of my team members who is going through some very similar issues as I did. God put it in her heart to share a bit of her life that she was struggling with, and placed me exactly where he needed me to be at that time (physically and mentally). God showed me the love and joy He gives to those who follow Him, and all the wonderful things He is capable of doing with ordinary people. I saw God overcome language barriers through love, and I saw the amazing work He is doing in Honduras at La Providencia. Our team faced many challenges and struggles as the week went on, and it became very difficult to keep spirits up, but we pushed through and found joy and strength in each other. This team truly loved each other deeply, and we knew how to come together and focus on serving God. We prayed before everything, and we spent quality time having intentional conversations about God and our devotionals. The way God can move through a group of kids from an average town in Ohio, showed how truly powerful He is. I feel eternally blessed to have experienced this amazing week with a team of people I can honestly call my brothers and sisters in Christ. I know that God placed me on this team for a reason, and I know that He has big plans for the people in my team. I cannot wait to see all He has planned for my future, and to watch His perfect timing in action.”

Books I’ve Read Recently

929CB448F87340438FC9946BD61DBC9E.ashx30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. I’ve always struggled to enjoy reading and studying church history. There are aspects of church history that certainly grab my attention but church history as a whole is not a topic I find easy to read or study. However, there have been a few books related to church history that have helped me cultivate a better appreciation and love for church history over time and this was on of those books. In this book the writer, Alton Gansky, writes about 30 events that have shaped the church as a whole. Gansky quickly admits it wasn’t easy picking just 30 events. He says, “Selecting which events to include in this book was difficult…In the end, I believe this is a good sample of key events in church history, drawn from both the distant past and modern times” (page 10-11). I think Gansky does a good job at this. He successfully picks 30 events that gives the reader a well-rounded view of events that have shaped the church into what it is today. What’s interesting about this book though is Gansky didn’t just stick with events that happened “within” the church community. In addition to those types of events, he writes about events that happened “outside” the church community. These events, like the ones within the church, impacted the church in profound ways. This is a great book for anyone who wants an easy, interesting church history related book to read. It’s also helpful to anyone who is interested in how major events in history, both inside and outside the church, has shaped the church as we know it today.

51E4B0BFYVLForeign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a phrase you hear often. Many times I have passed up a good book because the cover didn’t grab my attention. This was almost on of those books. I received this book when my wife and I decided to be a part of a ministry called International Friendship Connection. IFC is a ministry that serves international undergrad and graduate students who are in the states studying on a university campus. This book was given to us at a training we went to for IFC. At first glance, I didn’t have a desire to read this book. However, I decided to pick it up and give it a shot and I’m glad I did. In this short book, Sarah Lanier talks about the differences between what she calls “hot climate cultures” and “cold climate cultures.” Lanier says, “The population of the entire world can roughly be divided into two parts. The two groups represented are ‘hot climate’ (relationship-based) cultures and ‘cold-climate’ (task-oriented) cultures” (page 15-16). These two cultural groups have different ways they communicate, manage time and planning, find their identity, and even show hospitality. If someone from a hot climate cultures goes into a cold climate culture and interacts the way they normally do in their hot climate culture they will have a hard time. One must understand the culture they are going into so they can best serve and do life in that culture. In this book Lanier lays out the key differences between these two cultural groups and how one can understand them. It’s defiantly a book that should be read by anyone doing or planning to do cross-cultural missions, whether thats domestic or international, but is also helpful to Christians in general as we seek to serve others in different cultural contexts.

51XQrJqkg9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks. This is a book I have always heard great things about but have never got around to reading. I’m glad I decided to finally take it off the shelve and read it. The wisdom that Hendricks shares in this little book is gold. The book is filled with practical insights and principles that help you become a better teacher of God’s Word. In this book Hendricks shares seven laws in regards to teaching: law of the teacher, law of education, law of activity, law of communication, law of the heart, law of encouragement, and law of readiness. In regards to the seven laws, Hendricks says, “If you boil them all down, these seven laws essentially call for a passion to communicate” (page 15). That’s what this book is all about. Helping people who teach the Bible do it with passion, excellence, and skill. This is a great little book that I believe is a must read for anyone who is in a role of teaching the Bible.

How To Pull Off An Amazing Student Mission Trip

11539570_790252937762379_9192139287700663945_nEvery summer we take our students on mission trips. For the past few summers we have been taking two trips. One trip is for middle school students and the other one if for high school students. These trips are always the highlight of my summer as I get to see God work in and through our students. I want to share a few tips on how to pull off an amazing mission trip with your students. I hope this will be a help to any student pastors or youth workers out there who may have the opportunity to take students on mission trips.

First, partner with a missions organization, ministry, or a missionary for your trip. Don’t try to pull off a mission trip on your own. It’s not worth it. You will just make it harder on yourself and will keep your students from experiencing the most out of the trip. Instead of going on your own partner with either a missions organization, ministry, or a missionary. For example, for the past few years we have been doing our student mission trips through LeaderTreks. LeaderTreks does a lot of different things but one of the things they do is short-term student mission trips. When you go through LeaderTreks you have the opportunity to partner with an organization that knows the area where you are going, has a few staff people there to help lead your trip, and are trained in the work projects you will do on the trip. By partnering with LeaderTreks we have been able to take our students on mission trips to Dayton, OH, Memphis, TN, Pawley’s Island, SC, Manchester, Kentucky, and Chicago, IL. I’d encourage you to check LeaderTreks out and think about using them for your next student ministry trip. Also, instead of partnering with an organization like LeaderTreks, you can partner with a local ministry or missionary in the area where you are going. Find a ministry or missionary your church supports and have the host and help lead your trip. Serve along side them for the trip and let them lead your group in serving Jesus in that area. They are already doing ministry there and know what is working and what isn’t working. Also, they will be there to continue doing ministry when your team leaves. Whatever you do, don’t do a mission trip on your own. That’s the first step in pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

Second, have pre-trip meetings with your team. Don’t have students sign up, pay, and then a few months later jump in a van or on a plane to head off for your mission trip. Spend time as a team months before the trip to get to know each other better, learn how to work together,  and plan for the trip. We always have four pre-trip meetings with our student teams where we do a Bible study, learn about the area where we will be serving, and planning ministry things we will be doing on the trip. These meetings are key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

Third, take enough leaders. Recruit a few good adult leaders to go on your mission trip. The number of students you have going will determine how many leaders you will need. However, don’t be afraid of taking too many leaders. More leaders will help with things like driving (if you are driving to your location), keeping students safe, building relationships with students, and allowing other leaders to take a few breaks from the craziness of leading teenagers on a mission trip. Make sure you include the trip leaders in your pre-trip meetings and things like that. They are not just chaperones they are a vital part of your team. Taking enough leaders is key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

11200803_1137477229599673_2704302959920021548_nFourth, do a variety of ministry. Plan to do a variety of different ministry things on your trip. You want to expose your students to as many types of ministry as you can. For an example, our Chicago mission trip this summer with our middle school students had a variety of ministry. For the first part of everyday we did construction. It was hard work and very physical. Then in the afternoon we would do different things each day. We did things like a prayer walk in the neighbor where we were staying, VBS in a local park, and a community outreach cookout. This is one of the benefits of going through an organization like LeaderTreks. They plan and allow your students to be a part of different types of ministry throughout the trip. Doing a variety of ministry is always key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

Fifth, have fun! Student mission trips should be fun. Don’t get so focused on “getting work done” that you forget you are leading a mission trip for teenagers. Have them work hard but also play hard. When there is free time let them be crazy! Take some time on the trip to explore the area you are staying and do some sightseeing if you are in a major city or out in the mountains. Spend some time on the beach if you are on the coast. Have some fun with your students. They will appreciate it. Having fun is key to pulling off an amazing student mission trip.

These are a few things I have seen work for us over the past few years as God has blessed us with some amazing mission trips. I hope they help you lead students on amazing mission trips in the future.

Preparing Students For a Mission Trip

world-mapSummer is just a few short weeks away which means many student pastors are gearing up for a mission trip sometime this summer with their students. In the busyness of handling all the details of the trip we must not forget that the most important thing we need to be doing is preparing the students for the trip. We cannot just take students on a mission trip and hope they figure it out as they go. We must take time to prepare them individually and as a team for the what they will be doing for God’s Kingdom on the trip. Here are some practical ways you can prepare students for a missions trip.

Team Meetings. I’m not suggesting just a quick meeting a week before the trip to tell them what to bring and what not to bring. I’m suggesting regular meetings as a team leading up to the trip. For our high school mission trip we have been having monthly team meetings since March. We will continue to meet until July, the month of our trip. These meetings give the students an opportunity to build community with each other, the opportunity for me to share important trip details with them, and an opportunity to plan together for what we hope to accomplish on the trip. In my opinion team meetings with your students leading up to the trip is a MUST!

Team Building Activities. Another thing you can do to prepare students for a mission trip is team building activities. We have been doing these as part of our monthly team meetings. Team building activities are a great way to get your students working together and growing in their leadership skills even before the trip. These activities also build closeness with your students as they listen to each other and are forced to work together as a team.

Fundraising. This may seem like a weird thing to put in this list, but I do think fundraising plays a vital part in preparing a student for a mission trip. I suggest doing at least one fundraiser together as a team. For example, we are doing a car wash next month with our team of students. Doing a team fundraiser will help your students work together much like team building activities. Not only team fundraisers, but individual fundraising by each student is a great way to prepare them. We intentionally shy away from doing too many team fundraisers for the sake of teaching students to do it on their own. We provide them the tools needed to send out support letters so they can raise money themselves for the trip. Students will get more out of the trip if they work to get there.

God’s Word. Of course the most important way to prepare students for a mission trip is teaching them and getting them into God’s Word. They can do all the team building activities they want and a fundraiser everyday, but being in God’s Word is the BEST way for them to prepare for the trip. We have done this two different ways. First, we study God’s Word together during our team meetings. We have been going through the book of Nehemiah together. Second, we provided them with 100 day devotional journals that they can use leading up to the trip. Be creative, but find ways to get your students in the Word of God before the mission trip.

Preparing your students is the most important thing you can do leading up to a mission trip. Don’t neglect doing whatever it takes to make sure your students are ready to serve others and share with them the life changing truth of the Gospel.