In Matthew 28, Jesus commands all disciples to “go and make disciples of all peoples.” This is the Great Commission.
As a family, we make every attempt to obey this command as we live daily in Little Rock, send our children to school, play soccer, go to the park, shop, or serve on a mission trip. I serve as campus minister for the Little Rock BCM. Prior to January 2023, I served as pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Magnolia. Prior to having children, my wife and I had the privilege to serve on mission trips with Calvary Baptist in Little Rock. As a couple, we grew in our faith and grew closer to our biblical community, all while serving in blistering temperatures, sleeping on air mattresses in church buildings, and serving alongside those that would become dear friends. These are sweet memories. As God blessed us with children, we decided that we would not only train our children to live daily on mission, but we would go on mission trips together as well. This idea has continued to evolve as we learn more about Jesus and continue to grow in our faith.
This March will be no different for our family. As many students travel on mission over spring break to various places around the country, the Little Rock Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) is traveling to both New York City (NYC) and Panama City, Florida on what we pray will be a “life-changing” week for many students and those they encounter. Our NYC team consists of over 20 students and leaders in a focused effort to engage college students, Uzbeks, Central and South Asians, and others in this gateway city with the Gospel. My wife, three children, and I, along with a group of college students, will make the trek by van, plane, and subway to share the Good News of Jesus, experience different cultures, and learn more about life as followers of Jesus.
At the time of writing this article, only one of our three children has surrendered his life to Jesus. The trip will look a bit different for each child as they learn more about Jesus, our faith, and the importance of loving people from different cultures. It may be that Jesus saves one of our own children on this trip. We want our children, regardless of age, to be immersed in missions and culture with no exclusions as we are able. We do not pretend to believe that this is always easy, as it can be both expensive and challenging at times as we travel on subways, stay up late, nap on the go, or whatever the context may involve. We do believe it is worth it as we see their faith grow and they begin to “catch the vision” Jesus has for those who follow Him. We pray this leads our children to a long life of obedience to Jesus and a focus on fulfilling the Great Commission. The students who go along with us on these trips are also impacted as they see us living life on mission together as a family. It is our hope and prayer that students who go on trips with us will one day take mission trips together with their family. We asked students who have gone with us on past trips what their thoughts were. Here are a couple of responses.
Breanna Hargis, a Southern Arkansas University (SAU) student from Strong said, “To me it was fun bringing your whole family. Mission trips in a way have the focus on youth, single people, or couples and not whole families, especially within the church culture. Bringing your whole family showed that it is possible to do that and show your kids what it is like to live on mission from a young age, which is awesome. Kids make the trip more fun, and we can be kids right along with them!”
Molly Freeman, a SAU student from Rison, said “Not only does it start teaching children at a young age to share the Gospel, it really is a conversation starter for so many. Having younger children will make some people actually have a conversation with you, especially if they have children also!”
Our oldest son, James, will turn eight on this trip to NYC. Prior to this trip, he has been to New Orleans, Louisiana, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and NYC on mission trips. We have strong memories of James dressed as Spider-Man for most of the trip in Halifax. Last year was no different as our children, James, Sheffield (4), and Luke (1), were literally “leashed” to college students as we navigated the subway system, several flights of stairs, Brighton Beach, language barriers, stroller malfunctions, and various college campuses.
We call these trips “mission trips,” but we try not to separate these trips from family vacations and everyday life in which we intentionally continue the work and mission. We want our kids to go to church and read their Bible, while also living passionately for Jesus and His glory among all the peoples of the world. As we carry our children on these trips, we are teaching them how to engage with different people in different contexts. We help them understand that they have a role to play in fulfilling the Great Commission. They spend a week walking alongside college students who they admire and look up to. We aren’t perfect (just ask any one of the students that have been with us) and are still trying to figure out how this looks as we approach different seasons of life! I would encourage you as a family to go on a mission trip together, start short term. Begin by making your next vacation or outing a missional experience for your children. See where God leads you from there. Churches, be a part of sending families on mission.
The Arkansas Baptist State Convention provides an opportunity to serve as a family through the Acts 1:8 One Day mission trip held each year on the first Saturday in October.