Family Mission Trips: Staying on Mission When You Come Back Home

My husband’s phone call broke into the normal-ness of our Thursday. I had just pushed our two boys, ages five and three, toward their room for “quiet time” so I could either tackle the disaster-worthy mess of our house or perhaps just shut my eyes for a minute. “Honey,” my husband, Steven, said when I answered his ring. “What are we doing tonight?”

I knew that tone. Plans were changing. Steven had just found out two Thais we had met the summer before on a family business-turned-mission-trip were in town and had no plans that night. “Can we take them to dinner?” he asked. Staring at the sea of toys, dirty dishes, and dust, I heard myself say, “Out? But they’ll probably never see the inside of an American home between meetings. Can we possibly manage dinner here?”

It was a team effort, those three short hours between our crazy plan and the reality of hosting. I turned my boys loose with dust rags and hid piles of clothes and toys upstairs, barely finishing up before Steven arrived home with our guests and steaks to grill. The relationship that began a year before as a formal greeting over a business dinner in Thailand was now punctuated by hugs from “Thai uncles” around our thrift store dining table in Durham, North Carolina.

Keeping the Fire Alive

Bridging the gap between a short-term trip and our daily life doesn’t always happen that way. Especially when the mission mindset that guides our days on the field gets muddled in day-to-day living. The work God begins in your family through an overseas trip is not something you want to see fade as quickly as jet lag. Once you arrive home, you can implement practices that will help, like praying more personally for missionaries and national believers, teaching your kids to be prayer partners from an early age, start saving for an adoption fund, refugee relief, or a mission offering—saving and giving with an international focus.

“The work God begins in your family through an overseas trip is not something you want to see fade as quickly as jet lag.”

Some other ways you can connect the mission field back to your Jerusalem (Acts 1:8) are:

1. Share Your missions experiences.

“Remember that time we went to the Great Wall . . .” is not your typical story introduction. Yet, even at age three my son Hudson thought it was perfectly normal. I want that for his life, this telling of times serving overseas as if they’re normal.

When we return from trips, we tell testimonies—or “God Stories,” as we call them—back to our church, people we meet, and to each other. These stories encourage believers and springboard into gospel-sharing opportunities here in America.

2. Continue to love and support missionaries and believers overseas.

When the weather starts to cool, my boys and I head out to purchase mini candy canes. They are for a dear friend who uses them to share Jesus with children in northern Thai villages. The boys and I talk about the meaning of the candy cane, why they are a good tool to share the gospel, and pray for the people “Auntie Gade” will share them with.

Care packages, letters, and Skype calls are encouraging and a good way to stay in touch with both missionaries and national believers in other countries. They make a mission trip more about relationships than a one-time exchange and open up opportunities for more mission trips in the future.

3. See your home as a missions base.

Perhaps it was a mistake on our last trip to Thailand, that impulse purchase to buy Thai boxing gloves that perfectly fit our energetic boys. We realize that mistake every time we have their friends over. The gloves will come out and so will the tears, and we remember all over again that we should put those away. Or perhaps not.

“International trips jump-start our hearts for the lost. We keep that passion running by continuing the work once we transition back home.”

Our home is like that—filled with Chinese scrolls and Thai wood carvings and an imposing five-foot-tall ink drawing of a Maasai grandmother. There are cultural books, dress-up clothes, maps, and international toys that would be recalled in America. Every item is a conversation piece with our sons and visitors—particularly our international friends—that prompt us to tell testimonies, remember the nations, and pray.

4. Go out locally to meet the nations.

Recently I was at a gas station, keeping an eye on Hudson—who was determined to wash our car windows—when I heard a voice. A sweet lady from Tokyo who had never pumped gas needed help. Before we drove away, phone numbers were exchanged. When Naoko and her two girls visited our house the next week, she actually said, “I’ve always wanted to learn about the Bible. I’d like to know more about Jesus.”

What began as a chance meeting became a missions moment that bridged our time in Asia to a gas pump in North Carolina. The same can happen in a restaurant, museum, or park. As we look for international encounters from our local mission base, our family has come to realize that the need for the gospel has no geographical boundaries. Sometimes, you don’t need a passport to reach the nations. Sometimes, they come to us.

5. Develop a missional worldview within your family.

Ask either of my sons what they want to eat when we’re going out and the answer is the same—Chinese chicken. I’ve since discovered it doesn’t matter if I order sesame, cashew, or sweet-and-sour. All three match up with their memories of saucy fried chicken eaten on trips to Asia. It’s one small way we connect a normal dinner out with our love of a people group.

International trips jump-start our hearts for the lost. We keep that passion running by continuing the work once we transition back home. From what we eat to the way we pray, give, and go again, taking family trips creates a missional worldview that makes gospel opportunities real for my family, whether we are in the Himalayas or greeting a new friend at our local playground.

This is the final installment in a series of posts on family mission trips. You can find the first here, the second here, and the third here.