Thursday, June 25, 2009

Up, Up and Away. . .

I dropped 4M off at the airport this morning. He's off on a two-week mission trip to one of the island-nations of the Caribbean. Not to complain overmuch, but for Molly and me, it was nice to finally get him on the plane. Because that means we're finally done with all the procuring of passports, and jungle-fever immunizations, and plane reservations, and wrangling over luggage (Isn't it amazing how hard it is, for even an honor student to understand that, if you have to pay extra for a bag over 50 pounds, that you should rather put 5 pounds into your carry-on bag, than have your checked bag come in at 52 pounds? When the only counter-argument is that five pounds of carry-on looks all bulky and dorky as one styles one's way through the airport? But, I digress. . .)

Our older girls went on a few different mission trips during their high-school years - They both went to Mexico at least once, and 2F spent several summers in Detroit (which, for all that it's close to home, is almost like a third-world country in its own right), and 1F spent one of her mission trips working with underprivileged kids in Canada, of all places. 3M never went on a 'formal' mission trip, but he's been to Canada a couple times, as well.

But 4M, since he played football, spent all his high-school summers doing conditioning, and couldn't (or didn't want to) free up the time to go on a mission trip, until now. So it'll be an interesting experience for him.

It's always a bit of a culture shock for nice American kids like ours to go to a 'third-world' country for the first time, and to see real, honest-to-goodness poverty up close and personal. We live close enough to what passes for poverty in OurTown, that poverty itself is not an exotic concept for our kids. But (not in the least to make light of the poor people in OurTown) poverty in OurTown is one thing; poverty in Latin America, or the Caribbean, is a whole 'nother order of magnitude. And somewhere in there, they make a friend or two, and they come to understand the humanity of the folks they encounter; they stop being 'The Poor' in-the-abstract, and become people, made in God's Image, with human dignity and personhood uniquely their own. And they come to understand something of God's love for human persons, and their fundamental human solidarity with other human beings, regardless of the staggering socio-economic disparity between themselves, and the people they serve.

And even at that, it's only for two weeks; after that, they get back on an airplane, and go back home to their life of American prosperity. It's possible for a kid to do his two weeks in the third world, and say, "That was nice," and go on like before, as if nothing had happened. But it's also possible for the kid to see a little deeper, and come to understand life, and humanity, a bit more clearly. It isn't guaranteed that they'll come home changed, but it's possible. Maybe even likely. And that's what I hope for my son.

I'm proud of 4M, in all kinds of ways. One of the things I'm proudest of in him, is that, for all the 'gifts' he's received from the Universe (so to speak) - good looks, popularity, athletic skill - he's not pretentious, or vain. Maybe that comes from his having played sports with some kids who come from very different, and less-blessed environments than what he has; but he really does accord the same human dignity to his less-blessed friends, as he does to the wealthy and talented ones. And that's not such a common thing.

So I think he'll do well with his mission trip. Certainly, we'll miss him while he's gone; and we'll pray for him every day. But regardless, we're proud of him for taking this on, and hopeful that it can be an occasion for him to see a bit more deeply into the heart of God. . .

10 comments:

FTN said...

Yeah, I've come to realize that most of the week-long or even month-long "mission trips" for teenage (or even adult) middle and upper class Americans are, at the core of it, missional TO the Americans that go on the trip. Especially white suburban teenage kids. :-) If we wanted to efficiently minister to the Haitian or African kids, we might send the $30,000 that those kids spend on travel costs to existing missionaries in those places to buy food and supplies for those kids. But the $30,000 spent on the trip is, hopefully, a long-term investment in the mentality of those American kids from the 'burbs. Hopefully it pays back tenfold later in life, as they give and minister to the sick and poor in third-world countries.

So I'm all for mission trips, but at the same time, I'm realistic about what it's generally accomplishing, for the costs. I've seen some trips that seem really counter-intuitive. I better not get into the details...

I hope 4M has a good trip, and that he helps in changing some lives, and that it is transformative for him and his friends. Rarely do I know anyone who doesn't come back affected by a trip like that.

flutterby said...

What He Said.

Praying for a safe and happy return of 4M to the Jones' fold.

Bunny said...

I hope he has a safe and educational trip and that he is able to some good for others in his short time among them. May God bless and care for him and those he meets on this trip.

Cocotte said...

I went on a very similar mission trip at age 18 to the island of Nevis (back before it had any golf resorts or anyone had heard of it). The people lived in shacks about the size of a one car garage.

What stuck in my mind more than the poverty was the way that they treated us. Odd to me at the time, but I guess they hadn't seen too many caucasians. They kept calling us "angels" based on our appearance. That bothers me to this day.

lime said...

mr. lime and isaac departed at 4am this morning for a week and a half on new orleans doing similar work. i'll pray for 4M as i pray for my own family.

Desmond Jones said...

FTN - You're probably right. But, at least some folks are gonna have better housing, and clean water, who didn't have it before now. And if 4M gets radicalized in his faith a bit, it's all good. . .

One interesting thing - the organizers asked us to send a suitcase full of shoes along with 4M; so, for the $25 a second checked bag costs (and another $20 or so to buy the shoes at the Salvation Army), we could send 15-20 pairs of shoes for kids who didn't have any. . .

Flutter - Thanks for your prayers.

Bunny - Good to see you! Thanks for your blessings, and we share your hopes.

Cocotte - It bothered you to be called an 'angel'?

Lime - Thanks for your prayers. And I'll pray for Mr. Lime and Isaac. . .

Cocotte said...

It bothered me because it was based on our looks and not what we were doing. It was deeply sad that they thought we were better than them, based on our skin color.

Desmond Jones said...

I'm sorry, Cocotte; I pretty much knew what you meant. Altho, it didn't have to carry implications of 'better', does it? Maybe just something more like 'exotic'?

Xavier said...

Sensible and Oddkin have been on several missions trips. Two to Pennsylvania and one to Quebec! They came back from each one a bit changed, hopefully 4M will be as enriched from his experience as they were.

Desmond Jones said...

Xavier - Good for yer girls! Like FTN said, it really is good for the kids, isn't it?

'Course, Pennsylvania is like, across the street, right? ;)