How do we mobiliZe the next generation for missions?

Scores of older missionaries track their “call” to a time when, sitting at the family dinner table spellbound, listening to stories from the jungles of Africa, they too felt called to the excitement of fulltime missions. Unfortunately, today’s kids rarely get this up-close contact with missionaries. How do we mobilize the next generation?

When we began KidZ At Heart almost a decade ago, Becki and I became the missions project for the kindergarten classes at our sending church. Before my first “official” trip, we visited the kindergartners to show them my passport and told them what I would be doing. I asked the boys and girls to pray for my trip, but I have to admit it was a somewhat perfunctory request.

May not be a picture of my actual plane! But in my mind...

After two weeks of ministry in Africa, my traveling companion and I were ready to go home. Our plane left Johannesburg for the first of four flights. As we approached the Nairobi runway, the plane pulled up sharply. The captain’s explanation: “Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you we have no landing gear and will need to circle the airport while we prepare for an emergency landing. We suggest you pray!” (I instantly volunteered to “chair” that committee!)

The flight crew did an admirable job of preparing us for this landing. Orange emergency cards emerged and were taken very seriously. A young attendant crawled the aisle, pushing luggage under seats. A young lady showed each passenger which emergency exit to use. We practiced the “emergency position” with hands behind heads, heads down. (I understand now that this is primarily to preserve teeth for dental-record verification. I’ve told Becki if this should happen to me again, my body will be the one with no teeth, but seated in a more comfortable position.)
I’ll admit it. I wrote a goodbye letter to Becki and the girls. I was scared (even moreso when I saw the inadequate emergency equipment standing by to help). I was confused (why would God allow this to happen).

And I prayed. For some unknown reason, I asked God to have people at home pray for me.

When I shared this story back at church, two families came told me their kindergartners had demanded the family stop and pray for me at just about the time of the landing. These kids truly experienced what it means to be missionary “senders.”

That event was formative for KidZ At Heart. We want children to value God’s love for the world, and we realized values are formed through relationships. To impact kids for missions, we need to model the lifestyle and allow them to observe. There’s something special for little Susie as she prays for Teacher Tom on his short-term missions trip. And there’s nothing like Teacher Tom’s enthusiasm as he returns changed and shares his experiences with his class.

Do you want your kids to embrace God’s plan for the world? Show them the way!


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