A family mission trip gives you opportunities to release your children to God. On our Mexico trip, I thought I would be like a mother hen looking after her chicks. Not so. My eleven-year-old son stayed in the men's building down the hill from the rest of our family. My children asked to be on three different Bible distribution teams. I sensed God saying, "Let them go." That was hard for me. Each one came back telling stories of how God had touched people's hearts through their team.

A mission trip teaches things you can't learn in the same way at home. Imagine you are thirteen, attending a Christian school in a Nairobi slum. You and your family live in one room, the size of your bathroom. There is no running water. Your parents are unemployed. You eat two meals a day, both at school. You live next to an enormous garbage dump. How would you answer the question: "What are you thankful for?" I asked the seventh graders at that school. They answered: I'm thankful that my family takes good care of me; that God made me; that I can come to school and get a good education; for our visitors (our mission team); that Jesus died on the cross for me; that I have a good life. We learned much about thankfulness from those children that day.

A mission trip gives your family a common experience with lifelong memories you will all treasure. It's been twelve years since our family mission trip to Mexico. During the past five years, my young adults have gone on mission trips to Ukraine, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Kenya, and China. I just returned from my first overseas mission trip. My favorite mission trip is still our family one. Why? Because together we experienced God's presence, power, and love in another culture. God used that mission trip to shape our family.

Go ahead. Take the plunge. Start praying and planning now. Your family will be changed forever!

Linda Joyce Heaner is a freelance author and speaker. Read about her family's first mission trip and subsequent trips in her new book, God, I Need Help. You can contact her at  linda@abidinghope.com.