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When your team comes home with you

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One family’s story of summer mission

We are a blended family of four: father and stepmom Adam and Michelle, and children Jason (11) and Michaela (10).
We are also a family that was changed by a summer mission experience.

Before our marriage, God gave Adam a dream of participating in God’s world mission with Michelle (who had worked in mission leadership as an intern with MBMSI), and of bringing Jason and Michaela into it as well.
This became a reality this past summer – in our first year together as a family – when our close friend Philip Serez invited us to lead a pilot family mission program in Montreal.

Family Quest Montreal* was a five-day family mission experience that partnered with SOAR Montreal, a short-term Mennonite Brethren Mission and Service International (MBMSI) outreach program for youth. We bunked on air beds in classrooms at Collège Notre-Dame and joined the youth teams for worship, prayer, and mealtimes.

For the ministry component, our team of families served with l’ Église chrétienne évangélique de Saint-Eustache in their local community.

What is family mission?

A family mission experience is not significantly different from any other mission trip. We began with orientation. We learned about God’s mission for the world, and that each of us is invited to join it. We discussed the Bible heroes of Hebrews 11 and learned that we further the work they began through history (Hebrews 11:39-40).

We learned what it means to be a team, and how to love and serve one another as we worked together. We brainstormed positive actions, attitudes, and values that would unite and strengthen our group, then created and signed a team covenant. Then we did ministry together.

Our Saint-Eustache assignment had two elements. First we met a local family and helped with yard work in their home. We also assisted in running a festival for the community at a local Catholic parish.

The family mission experience, however, was unique in that each person was part of two teams at once: the family unit and the team of families. Also, the format of our study, worship, prayer, and service was adapted for families and for children of all ages.

But the mission principle did not change. We were all there in response to the same invitation from God, to join him in loving and serving his people.

Why do family mission?

Deuteronomy 6:4–9 commands us not only to love God with all our heart, soul, and might, but to be diligent in teaching our children. We as parents are to teach our children about our faith in God through the very fabric of our lives. This is much more than simply telling them what to believe. The challenge is to guide them toward our heavenly Father and to allow them opportunities to develop their own relationship with Jesus Christ.

A mission trip is a powerful way to demonstrate our faith as parents, and to give our children an opportunity to respond with their own actions. Our Family Quest theme was “Faith in Action,” based on James 2:14–26: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead (17).

In Montreal, we found that faith and relationships with God became more tangible when we were removed from the distractions of life back home. Loving God and neighbour became our focus. The children had the opportunity to serve alongside both parents and peers and to receive encouragement in the shared experience.

On the day of the Saint-Eustache festival, for example, our son Jason had become quite overwhelmed and weary. As Jason rested during worship, other parents led their children to pray for him. When he was ready to help serve the meal and hand out prizes at the festival later, he remembered the prayers of his teammates that helped make this possible. The love and actions of the others were an inspiration to our family.

In a society filled with messages of fulfilling our own needs, it was wonderful to observe our children eager to serve others out of a desire to see God at work. Three elements contributed to this.

Worship. There is just something wonderful about worshipping on a mission trip. We are gathered as a larger community, with a specific hunger for the power of the Holy Spirit.

(Adam) My son especially responded; at home, Jason didn’t participate in worship, but in Montreal, it brought me to tears to see him dancing and singing praises at the top of his lungs.

Service. In our mission trip environment, the kids were excited to serve with their friends, even on work they would not ordinarily relish, like scraping and painting a fence. Alongside her outgoing friend Fiona, our shy daughter Michaela found the courage to approach guests at the festival with a gift of roses.

Living together for a week. Mission teams forge strong bonds through their shared experiences and challenges. Family mission teams are no different. Not only did we create lasting friendships with other families, but we formed deeper bonds within our own family.

How we were changed

A mission trip becomes a training ground for everyday life.
One result we had not anticipated from our mission trip to Montreal this summer was a change in the way we relate to one another in our family. The team covenant challenged us to be more intentional with actions and words that encourage and strengthen each other. When the team debriefed about our “firsts,” the people we met, and how we served, we also discussed how the experience could influence our family life back home.

(Adam) The covenant challenged me to consider my reactions to my children in the midst of difficult situations. Do I expect them to just be tougher and stick it out? Or do I come alongside them to support them through a task or situation? Learning to understand our family as a team, one with a calling from God, significantly impacted how I engage and support my family.

(Michelle) Through previous work with MBMSI programs, God had given me a passion for global mission. In becoming a stepmom, God began teaching me about sharing my faith with my stepkids. Family Quest was an awesome experience to merge those passions. I found great joy in serving alongside my stepchildren and other families. I was inspired and encouraged by Michaela’s constant desire to help others, and Jason’s boldness in prayer and thanksgiving to God.

Family Quest was a joy and an adventure, something we hunger for more of as a family. Seven months later, we continue to remember it with joy. And we continue learning to support and celebrate one another so that Christ’s love may shine in and through our family.

Adam and Michelle Knowles (pictured with their children) are members at Waterloo (Ont.) MB Church. Adam runs the engineering department at Advanced Design Solutions in Stratford, Ont., and Michelle is completing an MA in Transformational Leadership through Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. They live in Waterloo.

*Family Quest is now called SOAR Families. SOAR Montreal Families will be held July 11-18, 2009. For this and other family mission opportunities with MBMSI, visit mbmsi.org or contact your regional MBMSI office at 1-888-866-626

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