Because High School Students Can Change the World

World Race Alum and Adventures Staff Deborah Jones has a few things to say about high school students and her job with the Ambassador program—and it might not be what you think.

In July of 2015, I led my first Ambassador trip for Adventures in Missions. Was I expecting it to be a breeze? Maybe. I mean, I had just finished the World Race – 11 countries and 11 months.  How difficult could one month be? So I went to the Philippines with one co-leader and 10 high school girls.

And let me tell you, it was hard. 

Try taking ten 14-18 year old girls who have never met and are from different places, backgrounds, and stories and combining them into one team. Now add two twenty-somethings who want nothing more than the best for them. Throw in temperatures and humidity in 90s, 3 typhoons, and multiple 4-hour sweaty van rides, and you try to tell me that it can be easy.  

It’s not. But that doesn’t mean it should not happen.

In fact, I believe so deeply that this kind of experience should happen that I came back to the U.S., packed up my bags, and moved to Georgia to work as the Mobilizer for the Ambassador program.

Why should teenagers have this opportunity? Can’t they travel with their churches, or serve in their home communities? (They should, but they should also have a chance like Ambassador). Why can’t they just wait and do the World Race? Why do I believe in the Ambassador program enough to give part of my life to help these teenagers and their families experience the kingdom now?

Of all the things I could do with my life right now, am I “wasting” my time and energy on teenagers, of all people? Isn’t this the generation so many adults have lost hope for?

My answer: Why high schoolers? Because they can change the world.

In my 4 weeks in the Philippines with my team (nicknamed Team Kankles, because we stayed swollen for a month), I saw a group of 10 strangers become sisters.

They learned to love and serve each other well. We laughed and we cried as they had breakthroughs of healing and forgiveness and new life.  I watched as God sparked new passions in their hearts, inspired new dreams, and refreshed old ones.  And I continue to watch as they take those lessons learned and live out a day to day life of ministry.

These girls are walking daily with the Lord, and several of them have allowed Him to step in and redirect their lives.

Fast forward a year and what God is doing in their lives is even bigger than they dreamed, from going on a month-long mission trip to Zambia, to planning a children’s ministry in Belize, using their gifts to pour into other teens through emcee-ing at a youth ministry in Ohio this summer, moving to Haiti for 3 months in the fall, and even going on the World Race: Gap Year.

These young women of God are schooling me in what it means to follow God with all of my mind, heart, and soul by how they are living each and every day.

All this started in four weeks. All this, despite the sweat and conflict and discomfort.  All this, while trusting God in the fundraising thousands of dollars.  All this, with a group of relative strangers. All this, with high school students – and that is only half of that team!

The lives of these girls, and the entire team, are forever changed. My life is forever changed. The Kingdom is forever changed, and the impact of these girls will continue.

It’s true, not every participant comes back to become a missionary. Not every participant comes back ready to take on the world. For some, Ambassador is just the first step of many.

But every participant comes back changed.

High school students matter. Two to four weeks can make a difference. And in one of the most forming and fundamental times of their lives, these teenagers choose God.

I am asking you, maybe even pleading – let the teenagers in your life have this experience. In my opinion, there is nothing that will show them God’s passion for His whole kingdom and how to love “the least of these” like an international mission trip. Nothing can show someone who they are in the eyes of the Father like stepping completely out of his or her own reality and comfort zone.

If you love a student in high school, pray about this opportunity for them. Present it to them. Be open if they present it to you. Allow God the chance to do the amazing things He wants to do in and through them.

Because if anyone believes in the potential of high school students, it’s Him. And make no mistake about it, He is using this generation to change the world.

If you are a high school student, CLICK HERE to find out how you can join a team to the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, or Southeast Asia summer 2016!