The Gospel consists of not just a message of hope but a message of healing that Jesus has come to rescue us all. We must communicate this message of rescue in a way that people of other cultures can hear and understand this message. That is the work of the global Church – to seek and rescue the lost. However, it seems that many organizations do not create a paradigm for teenagers to be included in this cross-cultural work. What I have found in my 15 years of working with teenagers, in churches and parachurch organizations, is a need to introduce teenagers to what God is doing within the global Church.
CIY Engage is possibly one of the most important para-church short-term mission trip organizations today. The reason is because Engage designs trips that are specific for teenagers to not only go to other cultures but to be able to process their experience with other teenagers as they interact with people their same age in those different cultures. Engage hires staff members who enjoy working with this age group and are able to do the work of both a youth pastor and a missionary. Engage is equipping future missionaries and Kingdom workers and empowering them to know they do not have to wait until they are older to go to the ends of the earth. Engage prepares students before the trip through an easy to understand training model, uses this same model for discussion and debrief during the trip and for follow up after the trip. The model design is to have students view their own world and then view the world they step into and make appropriate, Gospel-driven observations and applications for themselves and the world around them.
The beauty of working with young people is the life and fun they bring to the world around them. Engage allows teenagers to harness that youthfulness as they interact with various cultures and people.
On my last trip to Cambodia in June, this playfulness brought the best out of the team. We brought various sizes of jump ropes to the girls at Rapha House to play with. The night before we brought the jump ropes, I told the team that it was my dream to learn how to Double Dutch. One team member informed me she use to Double Dutch in her garage with her dad for fun. My eyes lit up as if it were a sign from the Lord that bringing two long jump ropes was somehow His doing. The next evening, we pulled out the two ropes and we started swing the ropes, left over right in big sweeping loops. The team member who spent her childhood preparing for this moment, jumped with ease into the double ropes to the amazement of the Khmer girls. It was my turn. I stood in front of the swinging ropes as my team member showed me how to count and find the window between the two ropes. I told her I have tried since high school and never got the hang of it. She encouraged me with enthusiasm as I jumped on “one, two …THREE!” I immediately began to laugh and jump yelling, “I’m doing it … I’m doing it!” My team member then jumped into the ropes with me and in that moment, our smiles connected as we realized what we accomplished. I finally lost my breath, the ropes came to a stop, and by that time the Khmer girls had lined up ready to take their shot at jumping into the game we call Double Dutch.
I finally crossed it off my bucket list – a skill I had been trying to learn for 20 years.
Laughter crosses any cultural and language barrier and it is possibly why it is so important to expose our teenagers to missions. If they can see the vision now and the impact they can have with a simple laugh, they will hopefully see what they can do when they fully commit to assimilating into a new culture to spread God’s Word.
I would recommend any church, private Christian school or para-church organization working with teenagers to consider using Engage as the sending organization. As we continue to expose young people to God’s love for all people by showing them the nations with firsthand experience, they will become a generation that will have the compassion, desire and vision for sharing the Gospel message not just at home, but also abroad.
Matthew J. Diaz currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and four kids. He holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies secondary education and a master’s in global leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. He has been volunteering, interning and working full-time as a youth director since 2001. He was officially ordained as a pastor in 2011 and continues to minister to teenagers in various settings. He is currently a Bible teacher at Northwest Christian School. He is in charge of student engagement with local mission projects as well as leading one of the school’s several international trips. He plans to continue to partner with CIY Engage to send teenagers on short-term mission trips to expose them to other cultures.
To inquire about an Engage experience for your students, contact Brad Warren at email@example.com.