Mission trips providing a chance for kids to make a difference

Mission trips used to be reserved for adults or older teens, but not anymore. Now, kids of all ages and even entire families are reaching out to help others in need.

Walker Jones was just 13 years old when he went to his parents to ask permission to go on his first mission trip. That trip would take Walker more than 1,300 miles away to a village in Guatemala.

He and several others from New Life Church worked on construction projects, coordinated a Bible school, and did whatever they could to make the lives the people they encountered a little bit better.

"I was really kind of nervous at first, but I felt like God just started putting that calling in my life to go out and serve other people," said Walker.

It's a calling that has inspired this teenager to go on three other mission trip, including one to Haiti where he spent a week helping people displaced by the earthquake, living in tents with meager supplies.

"It's the wanting to help people and it's that feeling you get after you know you've worked for somebody else and you've served them and helped bring them closer to God. It gives you that kind of drive in your life and makes you feel like you have a greater purpose in life."

Wendy and Casey Jones say their decision to allow Walker to start taking mission trips is one of the best things they've ever done for their son.

"He's always seen somebody helping someone," said Wendy.

His parents say it has made him more aware of the blessings he already has and the grace he can share with others.

"I just think it has enhanced his natural character of who he is and most importantly, his relationship with Christ and it's helped give him direction in that regard and a path to grow in," said Casey.

Motivated by a mission trip she took on her own last year, Amy Huffmaster, a mother of three from Cabot, decided she wanted her oldest son, Adam and her nephew, Zach, to experience something similar.

She signed them up for a family mission trip to Oatville, Kansas. There they converged on a small church with just 25 members.

Too small to host its own vacation bible school, the church relied on the families from First Baptist church in Cabot to educate and entertain the kids.

"I think that all children have that desire to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They have a lot more to give than we give them credit for and they know there is something beyond themselves and they're really just waiting for an opportunity to experience that," said Amy.

Greg Hooper, family and military pastor at First Baptist Church, says he's seen nothing bring a family closer together than a mission trip. Giving parents and kids the opportunity to work side-by-side towards a common goal without the distractions of everyday life.

"It just amazes me how these families come back and they are touched and they always come back and say... I can't wait to go next year! I want to go next year!" said Greg.

If your child wants to get involved with mission work, your church is a great way to start, but you can also get them involved locally. Most charitable organizations will find a way to involve a child who has a desire to help others.