By Beth Guckenberger
In March, I traveled to Back2Back’s Nigeria site with my family (and a dozen others) on a mission trip. In the months leading up to the trip, I heard every well-meaning concern (“Are you worried about your kids’ safety?” “Isn’t it likely they will get sick?” “Is that the best way to spend money? What can kids offer?”). My answer often depended on the amount of sleep I had or the level of relationship I had with the person. On the other side of the trip, however, I wish I had another shot at some of those questions.
I would tell them although I recognize the validity of the news stories coming out of Nigeria, and would never want to undermine the plight of the persecuted church there, the kinds of activities we would be participating in would not put us in the line of fire. I would tell them the struggles this country has experienced over the last years makes them all the more needy for the hope we carry to them. The children we served hadn’t seen a missions’ team in over a year and the kids literally swarmed us. Being Jesus’ hands and feet to this vulnerable population was a privilege.
On the concerns of getting sick, yes, even with vaccinations and antibiotics and hand sanitizer, germs can enter our bodies and make us ill. However, I would never want that to be a reason not to go where God has asked us to bring his good news. Vaccinations and antibiotics, Band-aids and anti-bacterial precautions are all the more reason to venture in. Fear has a way of robbing us of storylines God is offering.
And lastly, on the investment of dollars in people, or to answer the question of “Why don’t you just send over the money it cost for the mission trip and allow them to spend it there?” I watched during the week stunning interactions a money transfer could never accomplish alone. I watched kids love on kids, and play, lose themselves, trust, risk, connect and empathize with each other. I watched kids of both colors pray for one another, share, offer, receive, show off for and love on the other. I watched adults have visions, brainstorm, resource, encourage and teach one another. I listened as families made plans, formed mission statements and saw the best in each other. I believe the dollars spent that week were seed money. Seeds were planted in Nigerian hearts that God loves them, has a plan for them, sees them, lifts them up, maintains their cause, is coming for them, etc… I saw seeds planted in American hearts that God loves them, has a plan for them, sees them, lifts them up, maintains their cause, and is coming for them. I believe those seeds will be eventually the root planted by streams of water (Psalm 1) in tall trees of faith others find rest under.
I think the best is yet to come.
I think the story isn’t over yet.
So for those reasons and a hundred more, I want to encourage you to make the sacrifice and investment in taking your family on a short term trip. Whether it’s to Nigeria, or Mazatlan, Haiti or somewhere else Back2Back serves, it will be the stuff that lasts long after you write about it in your Christmas card. It will be the stuff we talk about a thousand years from now.
Beth Guckenberger is the mother of a bunch of biological, a bunch of adopted and a slew of foster children. She and her husband, Todd, direct Back2Back Ministries. Beth is the author of several books on the journey of their life abroad.