“Now what?”

20140321_101034That’s the question that most people struggle with on their last day of a mission trip.

You first entered into a foreign culture with all of your country-isms intact, wondering how weird this was all going to be. Around your third or fourth day in, you ironically became somewhat critical toward the very culture you left, wondering why “we” have it so wrong when “they” have it so right… whatever “it” is. Now you’re not sure what to think as you go back to the sounds, flavors and comforts you’ve missed…. while wondering how important those sounds, flavors and comforts actually are.

20140321_104157Maybe you experienced a unique connection somehow:

  • God broke your heart over a group of kids/people whose smiles/tears did something inside of you that you didn’t know could happen.
  • God expanded your strength somehow, as you accomplished tasks you’ve never attempted before in your life.
  • God broadened your mind over a concept or through an “a-ha” moment that will forever change how you look at some aspect of life.
  • God ignited a fire in your soul that warmed you in placed you didn’t realize were cold.
  • God stretched your circle of friendships, and you now have social media relationships with people who you would never have even known how to look up (let alone spell their name) before your experience.

But it’s the last day… now what?

20140321_174208Well, you probably have one more local meal to eat and enjoy. And then there are the logistics of travel to concern yourself with. So perhaps the next 24 hours are a bit of a wash. You’ll soon find yourself in the old routines that you left before, wondering what really, really matters. You may even get frustrated that you and God don’t connect at home like you did on your trip, not realizing that the luxury of time has played into so much of what you experienced.

Psst… you may have noticed by now I’ve not been as personal on this post as I have in previous ones.

Honestly, it’s not because I’m lacking in material.

Today was one of the most unique days for me on this trip. I won’t go into details here, mainly because I’m still processing it. I sense God is forming some type of life in me through this experience, and I need to prepare for its birth.

My son Joshua, bonding with one of our new friends (Danny) from the school. We visited a mall together today and this spontaneous moment happened.

My son Joshua, bonding with one of our new friends (Danny) from the school. We visited a mall together today and this spontaneous moment happened.

As I can process it, I’ll circle back and write an epilogue… or maybe a prologue… maybe it’s both.

What I do know is I’m so, so thankful for this trip.

It’s been one of the stretchiest experience to go through personally-and-with-my-son, while never feeling dangerous (except to my own legalisms and spiritual safety nets that God needed to have His way with anyway). Our Lifetree Adventures trip leader Robin navigated us through each experience, juggling the hats of guide, friend and participant along the way. The missions house was a safe place to unwind each day… our team was able to get to know each other better every day.

What else is there left to say?

I’m not sure, but it’s late… and I have an early departure time to head back home to my family in the morning. Thanks for your prayers, and for journeying with me/us as prayer partners. Here’s one last burst of culture… combined with culture. Consider this the Honduras-American remix.

http://youtu.be/Zm-JVbZ423Q

cholutecaIn less than a month, my 13-year old son and I will embark on a mission trip to Choluteca, Honduras with Lifetree Adventures. We’re totally stoked for this, and have plenty of wisdom from project leaders Jobe and Robin on what to expect, how to pack and so on.

What I’m looking for are some “secret” travel tips.

It will not only be my son’s first trip out of the country, but also his first time away from my wife for that long of a period. It’s not like he’s even just a state away somewhere – he’ll literally be in another culture.

I think it’s why she asked me, “Um… what can I pack for you guys? I need to do something.”

So I’m looking for your travel tips.

  • Any food/snacks that I can bring cross-culturally that would be good in a warm climate? For example, fruit snacks with real juice in them versus dry granola bars.
  • Any mini-packets I should take with? “Shout” wipes? Disinfecting wipes? etc
  • Any sense of what to do to make this trip a win logistically, as well as spiritually?
  • Any apps for my phone worth having that would work without data?

I think you see where I’m going with this. I’ve been around the block on this with students before, but this is the first time I’m taking “my kid” on something like this. Know what I mean?

If it helps, here’s a quick glimpse of the partners we’ll be working with: http://www.greatcommissionla.com/churches/honduras/choluteca/

How about it? Suggestions what we can do today for a “father-son-experience-meets-a-warm-climate-we’ve-never-been-in-before-while-mom-hangs-back-home?”

We already started a personal prayer group for the trip. I now need your expertise or suggestions on the details.

Any help?



Fundraising Advice?

Tony Myles —  October 17, 2013 — 4 Comments

fundraisingI read a question today about fundraising for mission trips that echoes something you may be struggling with. Here it is, followed by my reply:


Q: I need advice.

We just wrapped our fall fundraiser with very disappointing results… again. My students will not commit to raise money. Every fundraiser we do I have 2 students and that’s it. We have a great parent ministry and our parents have said they would just rather pay for missions trips than fund-raise but we’ve tried that and when the rubber meets the road they decide they don’t have the money. I’ve done everything that I know to do to get the students psyched up about trying to get the money raised and I get no results. Any advice?


A: One approach - require them to participate in “x” fundraisers or events before the trip.

We did this for an annual youth convention – some kids would just go on the trip because it was exciting but wanted nothing to do with the church or youth group the rest of the year. It created a funk with community/relationships on the trip and beyond. So we said, “Want to go on the trip? You need to take part in at least three other things we do over this year.” Fundraising counted as “two things” – made it a lot easier and we saw the dynamic change in the trip itself.


everybodyFrom my vantage point, this offers a few principles that make the participation of fundraising successful before a big trip:

  • It equalizes the playing field: Kids who don’t “need it” still do it alongside of kids who do “need it.” You’re creating the dynamic of community before the trip.

  • It creates shared memories together: Instead of kids coming into the big event without knowing each other, they’ve already invested into something with each other. That creates conversation right off the bat.
  • It locks kids into the trip that much more: When you’ve poured your sweat into something, you’re less likely to back out of it. If you’re tired of seeing students pull out at the last minute, offer them something do in the months before that last minute occurs.

What do you think? Have a different reply to the question? Or does what I shared make sense?

Chime in – let’s figure this out together.

P.S. Here are 5 creative fundraising ideas via Plywood People.

EVERYBODY! Out of the Van!

Tony Myles —  September 30, 2013 — 11 Comments

Larry said he was going to punch Josh in the face.

That was right after Josh called Larry a fat idiot.

Moments before that, of course, Larry had announced to everyone in the van that Josh had “Zero taste in music.”

Josh, as usual, had given Larry that ammunition by asking to hear some “old school” MxPx again.

It was day 7 of a 10-day missions trip—on the road across five states. My wife and I had somehow packed ourselves and 10 students into a 12-passenger van that barely held together and had no air conditioning.

Let me say that again: teenagers packed into a van for several days in a row without air conditioning… in July.

Larry really was going to get violent with Josh. I could feel the tension growing as one of the high school girls went into her own happy space and began repeating, “PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!”

I had enough.

We exited the highway and pulled into a gas station parking lot. All I said was, “EVERYBODY! OUT OF THE VAN!”

I didn’t have a plan. I only had frustration.

So I prayed. It sounds cliché, I know…but I prayed.

Somehow in that moment God broke my heart for what had happened.

I began weeping and even had to wait a few minutes before I could even come out and face the students.

I asked, “What are we arguing over? How we’re going to save lost people? The right way to reach a friend we know who feels his life is over? What we should do about what’s happening in some of your families? NO! WE’RE ARGUING OVER MUSIC! And honestly…I can’t think of anything else I can say other than to point that out. When you’re ready to get back in the van and remember why we’re on this trip, I’ll be in there waiting.”

Eventually they did. An awkward silence took over the evening as we made our way to where we were staying for the night. By morning, three of the girls on the trip who hated conflict made sure everyone apologized to my wife and me.

roadrtripThe trip eventually concluded, and God did use that time in all of our lives. I’ll never forget that moment of exiting the van, though. It’s even stayed with me as I get into my own side squabbles in church stuff that I think matters, but really doesn’t.

When we go on trips, I now tell teenagers, “Just so you know, around day 3 or 4 on this trip you’re going to really dislike someone else for dumb reasons. Try to keep that in mind, and let’s remember why we all signed up to be here.”

Sometimes the greatest thing we can do in a conflict is enlarge the Story of what we’re supposed to be wrestling over versus the noise that really doesn’t matter.

Thank you for loving students!

-Tony

@tonymyles

gmt-webinar-ym-inline



 

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Thousands of youth let out a collective sigh this Monday as schools all over this nation unlocked their doors. Within the next couple of weeks all students will have left summer behind for desks and a pack of freshly sharpened pencils. Memories of camps, missions trips and life altering encounters with Christ are still freshly etched in the forefront of their mind. Unfortunately, it will only take a mild amount of life pressure, real or perceived for many to trade in all their enthusiasm for Jesus. The youth leader in all of us will be discouraged when those  who were “on fire for the Lord” seem to become apathetic.

How then do we help our youth to remember the Jesus of the “summer”  wants every part of their lives?

Feelings Come And Go

I think it’s fair to say we all agree it’s “easy” to know Christ when the only expectation is to focus on HIM.  Camp and mission trips schedule devotional times, and often service.  Whether it’s lack of sleep or time to stop, many of our youth had deep emotional reactions to their times in these places. The Lord changed them deeply and they could FEEL Him at work.  Teach your students the “high” they experienced may dull, or it may return with the next retreat, conference or mission they attend.  In contrast if we are always seeking a “feeling” of elation we just might miss the depth of who Jesus is, and how He is ALWAYS at work in us and around us.  The truth is not contingent on whether or not we are “moved.”

 

Christ Still Wants Our Time

Schedules begin to creep in.  It starts with the necessities of life and moves to sports, drama, and for some jobs.  They can think there isn’t another minute in their day for th

e Lord.  However, that deep conviction they had while away propelled them forward and closer to Him.  Help them come up with ways they can practically succeed at both getting closer to Christ and showing the world who He is in their life. Could they get up just 5 minutes earlier everyday and read their Bible?  What about writing a verse on a sticky note and placing it somewhere they look all day? How about praying as they ride to school?  Encourage them to simply tell THEIR story of God’s work in their lives with friends.

Service Is A Lifestyle

They might be looking for the next time you “set- up” a service opportunity.  While projects and trips are great opportunities these should only ever be catalysts to a lifestyle of helping. Help them find ways to give both Big and Small on a regular basis. What about sitting next to som

eone whose alone at lunch? What about noticing when someone needs an extra hand in the grocery store?  Yes, visit the sick in the hospitals, the aging in the nursing homes, the shut-ins connected with your church, and give food out at the food bank. Let them know service is not an event, then find ways to get them out of their comfort zone and give some more.

Jesus Is In the Lunch Hall

And the gym, English class, at home, on the bus…  Part of the reason entering the routine of school is so hard for so many is,  it hurts there.  They might be dealing with bullies, failing classes or just the regular peer pressure that comes with JH/HS, on top of anything difficult NOT in school. They pray for complicated situations to dissipate and instead things get worse.  I have heard more than once that the Lord has forgotten them because things “aren’t working out.”  Christ hasn’t left them.  Instead in those moments He

cries with us, and loves us as deeply as ever.  Keep reminding them HE NEVER LEAVES, while talking with them as they wrestle with all that is “unfair.”

As our youth enter routine, and their school days the most vital offering we can give is the reminder God and HIS LOVE is the only unwavering constant in our world. How would next summer be transformed if they were growing in the Lord all year long?

What are you doing to actively aid students in their daily relationship with the Lord as they go back to school?

 

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Leadertreks has released a great free eBook to help and engage parents when their students go on a mission trip. Grab it today!

All programs and trips have short comings in youth ministry and one of them for student mission trips is that parents are not involved. Mission trips are better when parents work hand and hand with youth workers. In Helping Parents Connect, Doug Franklin outlines how parents can be involved in their students’ mission trips before, during, and after the trip. This tool is designed to get you involved from the beginning and to help parents grow with your kids through this experience.

JG



If all goes well, by the time you read this I’ll be on my way to Rwanda with about 15 students and some incredible leaders. On the blog this week we’ll have all sorts of guest posts and guest editor-in-chief Geoff Stewart will be posting regularly as well. If you would, please take a second and pray for health, strength, and safe travel for our students. Excited!

Day ONE & TWO: Travel to Kigali, Rwanda
Pray for a smooth airport check-in. Pray for safe travel to Rwanda. Pray for rest and the preparation of our hearts for ministry. Pray that all goes smoothly with the logistics of travelling with a group our size.

Day THREE: Genocide Memorial and travel to our main ministry site
Pray that our students would be excited on their first full day of ministry, loving the people whom they are serving.  Pray that the team has a heart of compassion and understanding as we learn about Rwanda’s history today at the memorial.  Pray for safe travels to this rural city.

Day FOUR & FIVE: Church and meeting with pastors. PEACE activities
Pray for the people of Rwanda, that their hearts would be open to the Word of God as it is preached today in churches. Pray for great conversations as we meet with the pastors of local churches. Pray that we would be able to accomplish much with them in preparation for the week of ministry ahead. Pray for your student today.

Day SIX – NINE: PEACE activities with Churches
Pray for endurance for long days of ministry. Pray that our team connects with the Rwandan community, making them feel loved and cared for. Pray for friendships to be built among Rwandan and Saddleback students. Pray that the team continues to shine the light of Christ even if we are exhausted.

Day TEN: Travel back to Kigali
Pray for safe travels and rest as we return to Kigali. Pray for your students as they begin to process and debrief the trip. Pray that, as we conclude our time in Rwanda, we would be able to reflect on what God has taught us and encourage one another with stories of God’s work.

Day ELEVEN & TWELVE: Pray for safe travel back to America.
Pray that we adjust well spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Pray that God would continue to work in our hearts after we return. Pray that we would continue to remember and reflect on our journey in Rwanda. Pray for protection from sickness and fatigue.

Follow us on Twitter or Instagram for updates: @hsmrwanda

I’m leaving in 24 hours for Rwanda with 14 of our incredible students (one of them being my 11-year old son) on a mission trip for 11 days. While I’m gone, my good friend Geoff Stewart is going to take a spin as the editor-in-chief of the site. What does that mean?

First up, you’re going to get great content from him. He’s a solid youth worker from the Great North and has been writing for the site for more than a year now – click here to read all of his posts. He’s got some solid content lined up I’m excited you’ll get to read. He’s invited a few of his local friends to contribute alongside him, too.

And second, now is the time to get your voice on More Than Dodgeball! Just send Geoff your potential guest posts at morethandodgeball@gmail.com and he’ll look them over and post the best over the next week and a half. Guest posts that are quickly accepted are <500 words, original and youth ministry focused!

I’ll try to post updates to Twitter and Instagram while I’m literally on the other side of the world. See you soon!

JG