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This is what short-term mission trips are really all about

Hint: It's not the construction projects. Think relationships.

In 1977, my father, mother, brother, sister and I lived in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., near the Virginia state line. I was 9 years old.

Dad had finished his studies the previous year at White’s Ferry Road School of Biblical Studies in West Monroe, La. After graduation, our family and two others had loaded our belongings onto U-Haul trucks and moved to North Carolina to plant a new Church of Christ.

Four-plus decades have dulled my memories of that time. However, I still recall when a church youth group came that summer from Arnold, Mo. — more than 900 miles away — to spend a week with us.

I remember that the teens and adults helped distribute pamphlets for a gospel meeting at the old nightclub — painted all black when we arrived — that my parents’ mission team had transformed into a church building.


Related: Planning a short-term mission? These 11 tips might help


But more than that, I remember the encouragement that the out-of-town Christians provided for our small church. Their laughter and friendly spirits made the fellowship meals a joy. Their voices provided a boost as we sang familiar hymns.

That, I suppose, was my first exposure to what today we call short-term mission trips.

Evan Barker, Andrew King and Brady Ross, youth minister for the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, Texas, work on building a house during a mission trip to Honduras.

In 2002, my oldest son, Brady, was 9 years old when he joined me on our Oklahoma church’s annual spring break trip to the tiny mountain village of Aquiles, Mexico.

At that age, Brady wasn’t a whole lot of help with the various construction projects and Vacation Bible School skits that our group organized. But tossing a Frisbee with boys who spoke a different language and walking from our tent to an outhouse in the dark made an impression on him.

The Ross family — Keaton, Bobby, Kendall and Brady — on a 2012 mission trip to Aquiles, Mexico.

“I feel like going to Mexico is a big part of my faith story,” said my son, now 25 and the youth minister for the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco, Texas.

“Just going, seeing how the Gospel works in a different culture, seeing how people lived who had so much less than me, it was really formational and was something I looked forward to every year,” he added. “Now I get so excited to continue to go on trips and to help lead them. It’s especially fun to get to watch groups come together and bond over work and to see people on their first mission trip figuring out what it’s all about.”

What is it all about? Yes, distributing fliers, hammering nails and painting walls are often a part of it. But mostly, it’s all about the relationships.

Bobby Ross Jr. is Chief Correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

Filed under: Inside Story International National Mexico North Carolina

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