In to Africa, Brazil and beyond

Mission trips give teens a chance to serve others while seeing the world

Mission trips give teens a chance to serve others while seeing the world

July 13, 2004|by ANDREA ROWLAND

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. - Sisters Molly and Mary Kate Briggs of Falling Waters could've relaxed on the beach this summer. They chose instead to spread and celebrate their Christian faith with a mission trip to poor villages of Uganda in Africa.

"We chose to go to Africa rather than on a vacation somewhere else," said Mary Kate, 17. "Vacations are usually about you. We didn't want it to be about us; we wanted to serve, to make a difference in somebody else's life."

"It's not about us," added Molly, 20. "It's all about God."

The Briggs sisters are among many Tri-State-area teens who choose to exercise their faith away from home during mission trips. Missions opportunities for teenagers abound through churches, faith-based schools and such nonprofit, interdenominational organizations as Teen Missions International (, Adventures in Missions ( and Teen Mania ( Teens pay for mission trips with financial help from family members and church groups, by soliciting for donations and through fund-raising efforts. Missions veterans Heidi and Heather Stamper of Hagerstown said they sold taco salads to help fund their mission trip to Mexico.

New perspective

The Stamper sisters will have completed three mission trips this year alone after they return from China at the end of July. The sisters and their mom, Karen Stamper, left for China on Friday, July 9, to teach conversational English.

"It is fun getting to see new places, but you're there for a reason," said Heidi, 18, a 2004 graduate of Heritage Academy.

She and Heather, 17, have spread the Christian message through words and deeds in Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti - missions that opened the American teens' eyes to the problem of poverty in other parts of the world.

"Haiti was really poor, really bad," said Heather, 17. "It was just unbelievable."

"There weren't any animals because people would have killed them for food," Heidi added.

Their trip to Uganda also gave Molly and Mary Kate Briggs - a home-schooled graduate and a home-schooled senior - a new appreciation for life in America. The Briggs sisters joined a doctor, four nurses and a few dozen other missionaries with Virginia-based Rick Via World Ministries for a nearly two-week trip to Africa in late June and early July. The missionary group lodged in Jinja, Uganda, and made daily pilgrimages to outlying villages to dispense medical help and Gospel lessons.

"We went to share the love of Jesus with them and to help out with some of their medical needs - knowing that long after we left and the medicines ran out, Jesus would still be with them," Molly said.

She and her sister worked with interpreters to share Christian teachings with villagers, witnessed baptisms in the Nile River and interacted with hundreds of African children - "a sea of faces just looking at you," Molly said. She and Mary Kate said they'll always remember the openness and graciousness of the villagers in the face of widespread poverty.

"America is a very blessed country," Mary Kate said. "Until you go away and come back, you don't realize how much we have in this country."

Daveeda Land, 17, of Hagerstown, also found that new perspective on her life in the States after several mission trips abroad. At 12, Daveeda joined a group of teenagers with Teen Missions International to travel 300 miles north of the Arctic Circle to help build living quarters for the natives there. At 15, she hooked up with a drama missions group to stage a Christian-themed skit in Ecuador.

"We saw people living in the dump," said Daveeda, a home-schooled graduate. "I learned that people in America take for granted what they have."

She said her trips to Norway and Ecuador made her "more grateful for what the Lord has given me" and less attached to material possessions. Daveeda said she also learned "that some people do missions because they want to and because the Lord has told them; some people do missions because it's cool; and some people do missions because their parents told them to. You should only do missions because the Lord tells you to."

Daveeda's strong faith and desire to share it with others prompted her to begin researching mission trips more than five years ago. She'll leave for Texas in August to begin a yearlong internship at The Honor Academy - www.honor on the Web - a nondenominational organization that fosters spiritual growth and leadership and prepares young people for ministry work. Daveeda would like to continue her missionary work in Asia.

"I don't know what the future holds," she said, "but I know who holds my future."

'Blind faith'

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