Late tomorrow night I board an overnight flight for Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Once there I’ll spend the next four days with a dozen pastors and youth pastors from across the United States who are coming to explore bringing a team to Haiti with Praying Pelican Missions.
I have a confession to make: Going to Haiti doesn’t make me nervous anymore.
My first trip in 2010 I was really, really nervous. Just a few weeks after the devastating earthquakes that brought Port-au-Prince to it’s knees I nudged against Ian Robertson at the San Diego airport and said, “What in the world are we doing going there right now?” In preparation, I’d stared at the endless devastation on CNN for hours, read and watched everything I could take in, and been warned by a travel doctor of every possible ailment I could contract.
Going to Haiti in 2010 felt death-defying and harrowing and a little ridiculous. Something you survived.
But… I’ve made six trips since then. And a lot has happened in 64 months there.
I’m not nervous about my trip at all. I’m just excited.
The Value of a Missions Experience
I do, indeed, think that one important aspect of youth ministry– one indelible opportunity for every student involved in a youth group— is a missions experience. Living in the United States is incredibly ethnocentric. And adolescence is a crucial time to shape a worldview that is bigger than the United States.
Part of our job as a youth worker is to help teenagers understand that the Kingdom of God is bigger, stronger, more connected, and better than the place that we live. Jesus followers are citizens of the Kingdom… to discover that you have to get out of your culture. You have to be in other places, worshipping with different people, eat different foods, explore different cultures, and fall in love with something outside of what you know.
Whether it’s across town, across the country, or across an ocean I believe a healthy youth ministry includes a healthy dose of missions experiences. It’s good praxis. It’s good theology. It’s good sociology and anthropology.
More than a “Missions Experience”
But I’m 38, not 15.
Frankly, I don’t need another missions experience. I love exploring and visiting new places and meeting new people as much as the next person. But I am at the point in life where I want more than a one-off experience.
I want real relationships. I want to know what I’m doing is sustainable. I want to build partnerships. I want to lift up the local church and strengthen ministries in the things that I do. And I want to make sure that what I’m do is helping and not hurting.
That’s why I’m excited and not nervous about my trip this weekend. I’m going on a vision trip with a dozen folks from around the United States and we’ll spend 4 days with people in Haiti that I know– Eric and Bethany, (get to know Bethany a bit in this post) Cassie and Almando, Rudy, Sister Mona, Pastor Valcourt are people I’ve built relationships with, and have seen how these long-term partnerships lead to sustainable ministry through the local church in Haiti.
To get the opportunity to introduce people to that kind of health? There’s no room for nerves, only excitement.
Want to learn more about PPM’s work in Haiti? Fill out the form below and we’ll talk your ear off.