Every Sunday night, the Haitians have a church service in their camp. Our church was invited to come and share the service with them. What a vision of Heaven, all the nations joining together, worshiping the Lord. Here we are 3 nationalities (Haitian, Korean, American), with our own languages, connected by our common belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
However, preceding the event, my husband and I were not quite sure this trip would make a great family trip. We knew he would go because he is apart of the worship team that was going to share a few songs. But how would it work out bringing our kids - 8, 5 and 2? Was it safe for them? We learned more details like we would be standing outside despite weather conditions for approximately 3 hours in the middle of a migrant worker's camp in a vast blueberry field. Also, the church sent out an e-mail stating:
"If you are bringing children they will need to be with you at all times. This is not a place where they can run around and play."Plus there are some people who really feel distracted by children in the service. A lot of the home groups at our church segregate the children for that reason. The e-mail did not forbid children, but I was not sure they wanted children to come and I would understand why. We started to think the kids and I would stay home.
Then, I decided to ask one more source - long time friends of ours who have always taken their children with them on mission trips. They have actual experience with toddlers and "stretching" missions experiences like primitive bathroom facilities. The couple both thought it would be a great idea, and since they were going too, they offered to jump in if I needed extra hands (remember, my husband is playing in the worship band). They also gave me the advice that their children knew ahead of time that they needed to "go with the program," meaning no talking to each other during the service.
We explained to the children in simple terms what was expected from them during the trip. If these guidelines were broken they would receive a warning. If the behavior continued, we would have to leave early and miss out on the dessert our church brought to share with the Haitians. Also, they would not get to go with Daddy on the next mission adventure and continue to do so until they had more self control.
In the end, it worked out great. We were able to teach the kids how important "flexibility" is on a mission trip. We had great weather, and had chairs to sit in. Miss G got more into praise and worship then ever before and she does not even know French. The other church members I talked were glad to have them there. The kids behaved better then some of the chatty teenagers that were on the trip (I do not blame them - it was a 3 hour long service). Even the dear man that owned the field let us go blueberry picking!
Some helps were bringing new water bottles for the kids, small travel size MagnaDoodles, and a reading book for each child. I wish I brought lolly pops and a flashlight. The next day I treated them to a couple of tacos from Taco Bell and Doritos - events that rarely happen. Also, I took them to Wal-Mart so they could use their spending money. My children are not exceptionally well behaved by nature and can be quite bouncy, esp. Mr. Z. It was really a stretching experience for them, so I tried to make the next day as fun as possible.
Bringing your children along on a trip like this may seem to be unfair to the children, but children absorb so much just by being at your side. You think they are just looking at their book, and not paying attention at all to what is going on around them, but that is not true - inside them God is placing a valuable deposit.
We are always looking for ways to be a mission minded family. What are your ideas/experiences for missions that include small children?