My 20 year old daughter, Tally, is about to take her first overseas mission trip. While I have traveled internationally on many occasions, she has never been outside the United States. Knowing her tender heart and her relative naivete, I wanted to share my travel experiences and missions insights to help shape her expectations for the trip. As we reviewed some important observations I realized that many of the principles of traveling and ministering in third-world countries overseas apply just as well to those serving in Kids Ministry.
- You Are Going Into Enemy Territory
It can be easy for us to get lost in our own enjoyment and forget the fact that we are working in a war zone. This may be a literal war zone in the case of many third-world countries missionaries may go, but there is also a just-as-real spiritual battle raging all around us. We have a very real enemy who does not want us bringing Jesus to those who don’t know Him. When we walk onto the mission field or step into our kids ministry space, we are stepping into the line of fire. Satan hates Jesus and he hates children. He has been killing babies since the beginning and he continues to target them today. He wants spiritual leaders to be distracted, discouraged, disengaged and disqualified. Ephesians 6:11-12 reminds us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against evil cosmic powers, authorities, and rulers, and that we must walk into battle prepared and protected by the full armor of God. We think of KidMin as a playground, but it is actually a battleground.
- Stay Aware and Expect Attacks
Because we are targets, we need to stay aware and alert to the schemes of the enemy and the dangers around us. 1 Peter 4:12 reminds us that we should not be shaken by whatever fiery ordeal may arise as if it were a surprise to us. We should instead expect opposition, expect difficulty, and disruption, and conflict, and discouragement, and brokenness, and hurt. Not because God is against us, but because we are for Him. Jesus reminds us in John 15:18-19 that, “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you.” When we take the gospel into the world, persecution is a promise.
- Protect Your Passport
Whenever I travel overseas I am vigilantly aware to keep close track of my passport. As a traveler, your passport is your citizenship and your citizenship is your identity and your safety. You would be in big trouble if you were to lose it, leave it, or relinquish it. As Christians, we have a different kind of passport, but we need to hold to our citizenship just as vigilantly. Philippians 3:20 tells us that our citizenship is in heaven. First Peter 2:11 says that God’s people live as, “foreigners and exiles” in the world. Hebrews 11:13 describes us a “strangers” or “aliens” living in a strange land. In John 17:16 Jesus said that His followers are “not of this world” just as He is not of this world. This world is not our home! We don’t belong in this culture, and we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Don’t expect to fix it. Don’t expect to go unnoticed. Know who you are—your identity is in Christ. You are not a tourist, you are on a mission. Your citizenship, not your location, is your identity.
- Don’t Go Off Alone
When traveling abroad it is wise to not go alone. It is always best to travel in a group and go with a guide. The same is true in ministry. We are wise to connect with like-minded, like-hearted people and stick together through whatever situations arise. It can be easy for ministry leaders to isolate themselves from other people; this isn’t a good idea. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 reminds us that two are better than one because they can help one another. It is better to identify an experienced guide who has been where you are going. Your guide knows the customs, knows the ropes, and can translate things you don’t understand. Traveling with other inexperienced friends is also valuable. They can hold your bag and watch your back. You can encourage one another, commiserate together, share observations, and conquer challenges as a team.
- Enjoy the Experience
Don’t let these sober warnings rob you of your joy and enthusiasm for the journey you are on. While we do need to be prepared we do not need to panic. I believe that God rewards those who step out in faithful obedience to take risks for Him and His gospel. So enjoy every moment of the adventure.
Don’t be thrown by all the obstacles that are constantly popping into your path. Take them in stride. Lean into your passions, your giftedness, and your calling. Embrace the crazy. Enjoy the ride. And don’t forget to take pictures and jot notes in a journal. Someday you will want to share them with someone else who is about to take their first trip into the danger zone for the cause of the Kingdom.
Chuck Peters is Director of Operations for LifeWay Kids. A graduate of Columbia Bible College, Chuck has served vocationally & voluntarily in Student and Children’s Ministry for many years.