As a teenager I had the awesome opportunity to experience a short term mission trip both domestically and internationally. I also had the opportunity to experience what a church summer camp is all about too! Both played a huge impact with who I am today and both gave me the tools to help me grow in my relationship with Christ.

I had the privilege to grow up in Christian home and begin my walk with Christ at a young age. I remember when I was entering 7th grade, I couldn’t wait to go to Riverview Bible Camp for summer and winter camp. I had heard fun stories from my friends about it and wanted to experience what camp was all about. There were games to play throughout the day and evening programs facilitated by guest speakers each night focusing on topics that encouraged spiritual growth in young people. Each year at camp, I saw teenagers making a committment to follow Christ.

In 1995, I was fourteen years old and decided to go on a 3 week short term mission trip to Italy with Saints Equipped to Evangelize. That was really my first short term mission experience. We travelled in and around Manfredonia, participating in street evangelism, and miming to share the Gospel of Christ to those living there. Each night we witnessed scores of people making the decision to follow Christ.  It was from that experience that I decided to participate in more missions.

In 1996, I had the opportunity to go with my youth group to Mexico and serve with YUGO Ministries. We would fly into San Diego and take a van across the border and stay just outside the city of Tijuana. We would set up tents in a dirt field and stay all week. During the day, we would venture out around the area and during that particular trip, we helped a church called “Living Water”, with VBS activities and soccer camps. It was encouraging to see so many young children from the neighborhood come to participate in these activities. What was even more exciting was how many of them made a committment to follow Christ.

In 1998 and 1999, my experience with Group Mission Trips began. My youth group went to the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in Montana, and the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington to fix up homes through a weeklong camp. Each night during camp there were evening programs designed to encourage spiritual growth among the campers. Throughout the week, there was always a number of youth coming forward to make a committment to follow Christ.

Participating in all of these camps throughout my junior and senior high years of school helped me grow spiritually and helped shape me into the man I am today. It was through these experiences that I was able to see how people lived in different areas of the world and it also gave me the opportunity to pursue ministry as I went on to becoming summer staff with Group Mission Trips, spent a short time after college as a youth leader, and now set up Week of Hope camps in Las Vegas. I share this because anything that you can get youth involved in, that encourages spiritual growth in young people is worth it. You can help shape the next generation of pastors, missionaries, and leaders in the church.