What These High School Students Did Was Totally Unexpected

While leading a student missions trip to the Dominican Republic, our Adventures Staff saw something that took her breath away: the next generation of the Church rising to the challenge of what it means to live out the Kingdom of God on earth.

As Adventures staff, I have the opportunity to lead short term trips every year. While praying about where God was calling me this summer, the Dominican Republic wasn’t originally on my list.

Yet I felt a nudge I couldn’t explain every time I saw the trip. Eventually, I requested to go as a leader.

However, by spring of 2016, there still wasn’t a team signed up to go. I began to wonder if I’d heard God’s direction correctly.

Around the same time, a youth group from South Carolina was praying about what to do. They’d originally planned to go to Italy, but their plans changed. They found the Adventures website and felt God leading them to the serve in the Dominican Republic.

When I heard their story, I was nervous. I wanted the trip to be outstanding for them, because they’d already been through so much. The stakes seemed high.

Then again, they always are on mission trips. Being a leader is an honor and a huge responsibility. And with a youth group, there are additional factors to consider, since you are responsible for minors.

No pressure, right? But the Director of Operations at Adventures said something to me this summer that I can’t forget. It was during a local softball game. I was stepping up to bat with two outs and a runner on second. He said, “A base hit could get the runner in.”

I laughed and said, “No pressure, right?”

He said, “No, no pressure. Just an opportunity.”

So, no pressure. Just an opportunity. I took that attitude with me to the Dominican Republic.

I can honestly say that the trip was nothing like I expected it to be.

As usually happens on a mission trip, at some point all of the best laid plans (plans made, knowing that things happen) changed. It’s a long story, but when we finally gathered for our orientation that night, eating spaghetti in a circle on the driveway of our apartments (with no power for lights or fans to alleviate the heat), I remember looking around and just saying, “Thank you for being flexible and rolling with the punches.”

For the next six days, some things went as planned. Some things didn’t. But it didn’t matter, because it was so clear that God was orchestrating every single minute.

One morning, we woke up to find that the water didn’t work in our lodging, except for one lone toilet. Amidst plans of calling a plumber and toting buckets of water, I shared with the team what the Adventures Director had told me, that each new challenge or change were really opportunities to see God move.

And that unexpectedly having no water on a hot Caribbean day, was just that: an opportunity to see God’s glory.

The team took that attitude with them the rest of the day and for the rest of the trip, saying, “It’s an opportunity!” And we saw so many, both in ministry and in life.

From prayer walks and construction in the mornings to VBS in the afternoons, this team chose to be all in. They served God by serving on this trip, whether it was carrying meals, digging a bathroom, or playing an impromptu game of baseball—and they did so with laughter and grace.

I saw something so powerful that week in the DR: the future of the Church.

These kids might have been teenagers, but I saw spiritual giants, warriors willing to fight for God’s glory and for others to know Him as they do.

I saw students who put others first, even when it meant being uncomfortable themselves. I saw them serve when it wasn’t convenient. I heard praises and Bible verses on their lips, and more importantly, saw them live the Gospel every single day.

Watching them, I was overcome.

People today often talk about today’s youth with an air of disdain, citing selfies, Snapchat, and our self-centered culture as reasons to be worried about the future.

But that week, I saw a team of 21 teens and adult volunteers, hearts steadfast on the Word of God and living it out wherever He has them—both in the Dominican Republic and in South Carolina.

I saw students willing to do the right thing when it wasn’t easy, and more concerned about others than they were about themselves. Each day, when we came together to read a chapter in Ephesians, I felt like a student, soaking up what these teens had to say just as much as if they had multiple Doctorates of Divinities.

After all, the same Holy Spirit is within all of them, because there’s no such thing as a “Junior Holy Spirit”—and I had no doubt that these students knew God.

Their faith is a testament to parents and mentors, to youth group leaders, Sunday School teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents—the Body of Christ discipling the next generation, and doing it well.

It’s also a picture of the future of the Church, a small portion of what I know is happening across the world. We see it every day here at Adventures, from adult World Racers to college students and teen Ambassador students.

The next generation might have more challenges before them than past generations have had, but each and every one is an opportunity.

For that reason, I believe the future of the Church is without limits—full of opportunities for God’s love, power, and glory to be shared throughout the earth through people just like these students.

We believe in discipling the next generation, and missions is an incredible way to do that. Do you (or does someone you know) work with students who want to go deeper in their faith and serve God while on a mission trip?

Check out our 2017 mission trips to rural and urban locations throughout the US, in addition to the Caribbean and Central America!