Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids: Short-term Missions for the Whole Family

CHAPTER ONE Short-term Missions for the Whole Family


by Jill Richardson

Our almost-twelve-year-old daughter, Becca, rocked the Chinese baby slowly,

back and forth, her voice low and soothing. “It’s OK, Amber. You’re OK with me.

Such a sweet baby.” She touched the infant’s upper lip, gently but without

hesitation. She traced the indentation there, a lip shaped in an odd way she’d

never seen before. The deformity had caused this baby’s mother to abandon her at

a hospital, but it didn’t offend her new champion. “How could anyone ever leave

you? I wouldn’t leave you. I love you, Amber.”

My husband and I had talked about the idea of a short-term mission

trip for three years, but it never seemed to feel quite right. Yet as our

girls got older, I saw them adapting more and more to our relatively

easy life in the suburbs. Most of the kids in their schools look, dress,

and think alike. Most live in well-above-average homes. For those

willing to pay (and most around here are), every want and need can

be found within a fifteen- minute drive. Yes, we went to church every

week and learned the evils of sin, but what about the evils of

complacency? I feared that our culture of prosperity and instant

gratification would slowly numb them into being careless Christians,

unaware of and unconcerned with the hurting world beyond their

comfortable lives.

Being countercultural shouldn’t be news for Christians. Jesus sent us

“into the world” (John 17:18) yet maintained that we were “not of this

world” (John 17:16). For 2,000 years, we’ve been trying to puzzle

through exactly what that means. Not only what He meant, but how

to apply that meaning in every generation.

In the early church, it required refraining from pagan sexual practices

and idolatry. It also motivated early Christians to care for the poor,

orphaned, widowed, sick, and enslaved with sacrifices their “world”

could not understand.

In our age, being “in the world but not of it” has become a cliché. “Not

of” translates almost always into a list of things Christians shouldn’t do

in order to “prove” they’re Christians. For most of the things on our

list of “thou shalt nots,” there is wisdom in not doing them. It’s not a

bad list.

The problem with lists is that, when we make one, we think we’ve got

the requirements for the test down. We believe we can get an A with

God if we just complete the list. That’s what the rich young ruler

thought. But God wanted an entirely different view of “in the world

but not of it” from this young man.

“Someone came to Jesus with this question: ‘Teacher,

what good things

must I do

to have eternal life?’ Jesus told him, ‘If you want to be

perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and

you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ But when the

young man heard this, he went sadly away because he had many

possessions.” (Matthew 19:16, 21-22)

Jesus offers this advice to the young man—Quit making lists. Quite

trying to follow the rules. Actually, try breaking some. Try showing

the world that something else entirely has gotten hold of your heart.

Try showing them what it’s like to love God more than any thing in

this life.

The message didn’t sit well with the young man. If Jesus walked

through the suburbs of Chicago where we live, it wouldn’t sit well

here either. I’m glad our kids have grown up knowing Christians try to

steer away from lifestyles that can harm them. But I don’t want them

to grow up believing that living counter to their culture just means

avoiding premarital sex and violent video games. I want them to see

how their particular culture seeps into

every part of their lives. I want

them to understand that what their peers believe about the world can

affect the central values of their lives, values they don’t even realize

they’re forming.

We know how our kids feel about drugs, alcohol, and spending their

life savings in Vegas. At least, we know what we’ve taught them. But

do we know how they feel about having too much

stuff? If they know

when enough is enough? Their convictions about confronting racism

or championing the discarded? Do we know if they feel entitled to

what they want when they want it? Do we comprehend the pressures

to be beautiful, athletic, and perfect—and the values these pressures



is the culture we wanted our kids to begin consciously running

counter to. Being “not of the world” around here means living values

that aren’t all about getting more, buying bigger, overscheduling, and

overachieving. I suspect that’s what the world looks like to a lot of

people reading this book as well.

Why take our kids on a mission trip? To open their eyes to a world

where the values they see around them daily at home appear for what

they are—false gods. Meaningless chasing of the wind. To encourage

them to live as if something—or someone—else entirely has gotten

hold of their hearts.

“It’s time to go back to the hotel, Becca.” I peeked into the nursery doorway and

whispered so as not to disturb Amber.

“I don’t want to leave her, Mom.”

“She’s sleeping, sweetheart. You can put her in bed. We’ll be back.”

Becca looked at the sleeping child. “When will she have her surgery?” The

orphanage now routinely funded the surgery for cleft palates.

“I don’t know. I don’t know how old they have to be. They say the babies come out

of the surgeries with hardly a scar. They’ll make her little mouth beautiful.”

“I don’t want to leave her.”

“I know.”

“Mom?” She set the little girl gently into the crib. “What?”

“She’s already beautiful.”

To finish reading this book, purchase Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids on

About the Author

Jill has a BA in English and Education from Washington University

in St. Louis and an MDiv in theology from Bethel University, St.

Paul. She is an award-winning writer and speaker. Jill has published

three books and numerous articles in and speaks in Chicago and

surrounding areas.

She serves as an Associate Pastor at Resolution Church in Naperville,

Illinois. Jill performs musical theater in her community, serving as a

board member, director, and producer for Acorn Community Theater.

She coaches the local junior high Battle of the Books team, is Vice

President of her library board, and plays counselor, coach, and referee

to three daughters.

Contact Jill at:


About MainWriters

Writer and photographer
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4 Responses to Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids: Short-term Missions for the Whole Family

  1. Thank you, Melissa! I’ll have to explore more the great things on your blog. I truly appreciate being “Championed” by another person who shares a passion for God and his people.

    • MainWriters says:

      Jill, thanks for sharing with us the importance of short-term missions. After my trip to Mexico, I have a better understanding of the world around us and our need to help others. I do hope that you will continue to visit my blog. Melissa

  2. sandra305 says:

    What a beautiful post and what a beautiful book! Our church sponsors mission trips for our youth (our youth earn most of the money themselves for their trips which is a big plus in itself), but when they return, they are very different and more compassionate individuals and they have memories that will last a lifetime! Thanks, Melissa and Jill!

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