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When your teenage son chooses Haiti over Disneyworld, you know you’re doing something right as a Christian parent. When your 11-year-old shares his salvation story in a park with over 100 people, you don’t have to wonder if the cost was worth it for the family to go on an international mission trip. That’s what more and more families are doing: trading their summer vacations for international mission trips. The Sapps, the Grays, and the Splawns have been doing it for years and now is the time to start planning for summer 2019.
Charles Sapp and his wife Teresa (Meadow Brook Baptist) have participated in the Builders for Christ church construction trips since 1991. They drove a motor home to the jobsite for nine of those summers to accommodate their family of five. Each child ranging in age from 5 to 16 has learned about HVAC installation. While many of their friends were swimming and playing baseball, the Sapp kids were fitting pipes, doing sheet metal work, and nailing boards.
Gil Gray and his two sons, Gavon and Braydon, (Church of the Highlands) decided to join Gil’s brother’s church to go to Haiti. “Team Sweat” braved the sweltering heat to cut trees, install solar panels, build benches for schools and churches, dig a burn pit, rig a gutter system, and craft customized tools for teachers. The boys look forward to the trip each summer and spend time throughout the year learning words in Creole to enable better communication with the Haitian children in the orphanage.
The Splawn family (Meadow Brook Baptist) traveled to Mexico in July with nine other families from nine different churches. Partnering with Reel Life International, they conducted Vacation Bible Schools in migrant camps, tidied up playgrounds, hosted a health fair, and held a fiesta-like fish fry. Brook Splawn’s (15) favorite task was taking blood pressures at the health fair while his brother Ben (17) spent time developing relationships with the local teens. Elias, the 17-year-old nephew of a plantation owner couldn’t believe how much fun all of the “serving people” were having in the name of Jesus.
The Cooks (Church of the Highlands) are preparing for their first international mission trip next spring when they, too, will go to Haiti sponsored by Shannon Cook’s employer Encompass Health. Their tasks will focus on medical clinics, schools, and food distribution. Their daughter Caroline (9) can’t wait!
The expense of such a trip adds up quickly, but so do the rewards. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Romans 12:2) Parents saw this verse exemplified as their children reconnected with the “real” world without the intrusion of social media and cell phones. Teens and pre-teens demonstrated hope and unconditional love with kids their age from other cultures and backgrounds. Through these mission trips, parents say their kids have shown increased self-sufficiency, responsibility, and value. Everyone comes home with a deeper love for the Lord, for others, and for their family.
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