My son Kyle was 10 years old when he first went to a foreign mission field, a small village on the Baja Peninsula. Now he’s just back from leading a team to the other side of the world.
After years of trips to Mexico, inner city rescue missions in San Francisco and serving in a Native American community, a friend told him about a trip overseas that his father was organizing for a church in the Bay Area. This team would be working with local churches in an Asian country where the government was not all that open to outside help for the Christian minority. But as long as the team was invited by the local believers and acted merely as trainers and not putting on ministry for them, they’d be allowed access.
So at 17 years old, just graduated from high school, Kyle drove an hour and a half every week to attend the training sessions in the months leading up to the trip, then flew 7300 miles with a group of people he had never met before joining the team earlier that year, and served in a country where he did not speak a word of the language.
He loved it.
The people, the food, the climate, the culture. He loved it all.
Kids are Kids
Kyle has served in children’s and youth ministry a lot over the years, from nursery to day camp, and this trip allowed him to put his experience to good use training others. The churches there do not have what we would call a robust youth program or children’s ministry. So Kyle’s team showed them what a vacation Bible school could look like for them.
Frankly, from the pictures Kyle showed us, it looks a lot like what we have here. Kids having fun with teens and grown ups.
And hearing stories about Jesus.
They went from one end of the country to the other working with churches in large cities and with people from small villages, and Kyle couldn’t wait to return.
So he went back three more times.
Kyle Plays a Solo
The next trip was with the team when they went again a couple years later. But when he found out they weren’t planning a third trip he got in touch with their contact in-country and arranged to just show up on his own and work wherever he was needed.
He was there to teach English, and he did. But that school only operated in the late afternoons/early evenings so that left the days and the nights for exploring and meeting people. A friend introduced him to a coffee house full of people his age, people he would come to know as friends over the course of that summer.
Kyle plays guitar, and that was the common ground for him and the regulars because this place had a small stage for anyone who wanted to get up and sing or play. Kyle decided to play worship songs. The people there ate it up, and he made friends.
Slow down next time you see a dog
This year he led a small team of college students back to the country he’d come to love, ready to serve the people and the churches in any way they could. It again turned out to be mostly children’s ministry, but there were also opportunities for adult fellowship and when Kyle gave his testimony about his love for God and the people he came to be with there, apparently there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Except Kyle’s. He thought he sounded kind of lame.
As in past years, the team enjoyed finding out about new foods and how to shop for whatever items became necessary over the course of the trip. Kyle had been picking up the language some over the years, so he was adept at bartering in the open air markets. This traveling around also necessitated that they engage in the country’s favored mode of cheap transportation, the scooter.
One day Kyle was driving with a team member on the back when a dog darted into the road. He tried to avoid the animal, but couldn’t swerve out of the way. He hit the dog and had to lay the scooter down as they slid to a stop.
Kyle’s passenger got a few scrapes. Kyle ended up needing stitches in his knee for a fairly deep would. The dog died.
Kyle paid the dog’s owner for his loss, and the owner turned around and sold the dog to a local restaurant.
The passenger cleaned up and was able to get around well by trip’s end.
Kyle is still recovering, but is almost back to full strength. So maybe he was kind of lame on this trip after all. The locals who heard of the accident all had the same advice: slow down the next time you see a dog; that’s what they all do, they said.
As you would expect, we’ve noticed a lot of growth in our son on the mission field from age 10 to now. You might say he’s developed a sophisticated understanding of what it means to serve God.
God grows his people.