Yesterday, we dropped off an old sewing machine at the Midwest Distribution Center in central Illinois. I was glad that my family joined me (my wife and my my two young daughters, age 7 and 2) in the donation because it allowed us the opportunity to visit a vibrant, hands on and world changing mission in the name of Jesus. When we walked in the building, there were 11 people sewing book bags getting ready to ship to other parts of the world. In the next room, there were three people cleaning and preparing 5 gallon buckets to pack cleaning supplies for areas that experience natural disasters. After unloading the sewing machine, we were escorted to a small room in back where three people were diligently working to spruce up other donated sewing machines. These machines, especially treadle style that require no electricity, are being shipped to parts of the world where families with no electricity could use the equipment to support themselves financially.
From there, we stopped into a room where desks were being assembled for schools in developing countries. As our conversation was winding down, they were finishing yet another desk and asked my oldest daughter if she would be the “tester.” She enjoyed sitting in the desk. And I was grateful for the wisdom and hospitality of the older guys in the desk making room for personally and tangibly connecting my daughter to world wide missions.
The whole experience caused me to reflect on getting kids involved in experiencing missions. Here are five ideas to get our thinking going:
1) Adults must live a mission focused life and kids will naturally pick up on it. What does it take for us to live a life of missions? Have you recently been on a mission trip? Has your family joined you? Have you helped with local missions? Is it your nature to allow for time in your schedule to help and serve? Lead the way!
2) Missions deserves our best shot – not the left overs. We were grateful to get rid of the old sewing machine. It’s literally been in our house, collecting dust, for seven years. It was an antique, but after checking with family members, everyone was fine with getting rid of it. In fact, two family members we checked with also had one they were trying to get rid of. I don’t know if our kids picked up on it or not, but in at least three conversations about about the donation of the sewing machine, people said, “Whoa, those are worth a lot of money. You could sell that!” It was a reminder to me, and I hope to them in some way, that missions is about sacrifice: giving, sending, and going.
3) Get your kid’s hands on the project. Kids learn, as do adults, best by experience. Get them involved in hands on projects. Operation Christmas Child is a great one. Writing letters and making cards for troops, shut-ins, etc is another awesome way. Does your town do a food or clothing drive for Christmas or Thanksgiving? Involved them. What about a food pantry? Send Christmas care packages to kids of missionaries that your church supports.
4) Keep kids exposed to missions – There are lots of ways to keep kids exposed to missions. Just having the vocabulary of “supporting missionaries”, “taking mission trips”, “believing in mission work” will help. What about inviting, anytime you have the chance, missionaries in to your home for dinner or a stay. Do you have pictures of missions and missionaries on your fridge? Do you pray for them?
5) Nothing is too small – live missions every day. I remember coming home from an event where my family was with the Harvest Team. We saw a guy on the side of the rode with a sign for help. Our van was literally full of snacks and drinks from the event we had just left, so we loaded up a “care package” in one of those sacks, turned the van around, and handed it to him through the window. The guy gave us a heartfelt thanks and as we left, the last image we had was seeing him sit down on the side of the road to eagerly look through the sack of goodies. Nothing is too small to help your children get a sense of mission – sharing the love of Jesus in a broken world.