Don’t talk to strangers. That was one piece of brilliant advice I gave Abby the night before she headed to Madrid, Spain on a mission trip. We were out eating dinner as a family, a sort of “last meal” for someone who isn’t sure what she’ll be eating for the next 10 days. I thought it was a good time for some parental wisdom.
As soon as I said it, I knew it wasn’t quite right. After all, the whole point of the mission trip is to meet new people and tell them about Jesus. Still, I went with it, because I’m a mom. I followed it up with a quick, “Oh, you know what I mean,” but I really don’t know why my whole family was laughing at me. We’ve all seen what can happen when teenage girls travel overseas without their parents.
Thanks for that, Liam Neeson.
Packing for this trip would be a whole lot easier if you were Muslim. These, too, were exact words spoken by me that night, this time while we were packing. And, upon further reflection, equally misguided. You see, if Abby were Muslim, she would find no need to go on this particular trip. In my defense, the dress code – with Islamic culture in mind – was somewhat difficult to follow for the typical American female. And probably something I should have considered before the 11th hour.
In all the years we spent in student ministry, I heard lots of teenagers say their parents wouldn’t let them go on mission trips to faraway or unfamiliar places. After considering Abby’s laughter over my stranger danger warning and lack of suitable accoutrement, I might agree…because it’s List Wednesday and all.
You didn’t get to go to Spain when you were 16. Whatever happened to youth group ski trips, anyway? And trying to make the world’s longest banana split? Back in the day, these were the things that made youth groups relevant. Now, even church camp is fancy with big name bands and lights. Why do they need all that when “Spring up o well gush gush gush gush” used to work just fine? No, your kids can go on a mission trip when they’re older and can better appreciate the simple things in life.
That’s money you could be spending on back to school shopping. And Taco Bell. A friend of mine told me her daughter once came back from a mission trip and didn’t care about name brands or shopping anymore. This is a common post-mission trip attitude. But how are you going to post a picture on Facebook of your kid on the first day of school if she’s going through an anti-materialism phase? Clearly, your time and money would be better spent at the mall.
They probably won’t have time or be allowed to use their phones. I’ve heard the argument that a mission trip helps teenagers meet new people and live with broader perspective. But your teenager already has friends. They’re really close friends, too. You know this, because they’re constantly texting each other. And perspective? That’s what Twitter and Instagram are for.
Teachers will probably make them talk about it on the first day of school. Everyone knows the drill. The question asked on day 1 is, “What did you do this summer?” Teachers might even require a 3-minute speech by that title. You’re not supposed to talk about God at school, so why invite the urge? Think of all the other kids who will find out and want to know details. I’m sure you can see my point. This is exactly why an attempted world’s longest banana split is a better idea.