So, yes, youth mission trips are brutal -- they exhaust adults and youth; they often put one face to face with tremendous poverty and enormous need; but, more importantly, they bring beauty to life. They ground service in the hammering of a nail or carrying a baby in need; they lead people into community even in cramped quarters and on less than optimal amounts of sleep; they give time for singing, praying, and storytelling to form and frame a story of good news that Jesus said, "I have come to bring you life and life abundant." I can't imagine a more profound way to burn into kids' bodies and minds the good news that, in truth, we are here "to bear another's burdens and so fulfill the law of God."
Read another perspective on this mission trip from the author's daughter, here.
James K. Wellman, Jr. is Associate Professor and Chair of the Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. His publications include The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism(Illinois Press, 1999) and, most recently, Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press, 2008), which received Honorable Mention for the 2009 SSSR Distinguished Book Award. His latest project is a book exploring the spiritual and emotional ethos of American megachurches, Getting High on God: Charisma, Ecstasy, and Power in American Megachurches. In his free time, he's a Presbyterian minister and helps lead his church youth group.