Guest writer Taffy Hunter shares a family experience in today’s blog post.
My daughter is 15 and in grade 10. She is an amazingly smart young lady who does very well in school; she has good friends and she loves Jesus. My daughter also suffers from extreme social anxiety and panic disorder. This is so severe that she has taken years of counseling and hard work just to be able to order her own food at a restaurant, or check out at the store by herself. She has done hard things to help herself grow — like joining Pathfinders and going to OshKosh Camporee with her club, or going to camp for a whole week alone.
This year she was presented with the opportunity to join with friends and our local school on a mission trip to Bolivia. Please understand, two years ago this would have been impossible for her because of her anxiety. This year, however, she showed interest and I felt I needed to encourage her to try. She has known for a year about this upcoming trip, and has talked about it off and on throughout the summer.
I asked her the night before the paperwork was due if she had decided to go or not. She just sighed and looked at me and replied, “Mom, I just can’t. I just can’t go alone.”
I replied, without much forethought, “What if I went with you?”
The next morning, I woke up to a bright-eyed daughter with her completed application in hand!
“She took me up on it? What have I done!? How will we pay for this? We’re going to Bolivia?!” I thought.
I smiled encouragingly as I took the paperwork and filled out my portion. I handed it back to her and we prayed together before she handed it in to the group leader later that day. Even with the prospect of me coming with her, she was still terrified and had a panic attack after turning it in.
So often when we are raising teens, we forget they still need parents! They still need our full support, and sometimes they still need us as their security so they can do the hard things. This girl, who has come so far with her anxiety, was trying her best to step outside of her comfort zone — to do what she felt the Holy Spirit was calling her to do. She was terrified but willing and still unable to do it alone. As her mom, I get to support her by being the “wind beneath her wings” on this trip, and it makes me so proud of both of us!
The trip is a bit daunting in that we each have to raise $2500. She is a hard worker with a willing spirit, so we are pulling together as a daughter/mother team and doing whatever God calls us to do to raise the money that we need to go spread the Gospel to the people of Bolivia. Our relationship, which was already great, is growing even stronger as we work together, pray together, and even panic a little together!
Already, I am seeing her grow in ways she hasn’t before. She is taking her public speaking class with a new spirit of “I WILL do this,” because she knows she will have to talk to strangers on the trip. She has learned some handcraft skills as we’ve made hats, scarves, and other items to sell for donations. She has made dozens and dozens of enchiladas and lasagnas to sell. She has taken photos of auction items, and had to learn about lighting and setting to get the best photos she could. She has cleaned houses, raked leaves, and sold fruit without complaint. She has been calculating the finances and watching our account as it grows. She is thinking about others, readily willing to help, and happy to say “thank you.” Already, so many life skills have been learned or reinforced just by choosing to go on this trip.
Most important of all, I believe, is the call that Jesus has put on her life for this season. She has responded to His mission, and is faithfully following through to reach her goal. Spiritually she is growing as she moves along in faith and trust that she is doing what God wants her to do, and that I am there to support her.
If you have a chance to help your teen, or someone else’s teen, go on a mission trip, please do so! I had no idea the things she would learn, how she would grow personally and spiritually through this entire process. I have a new appreciation for the many ways preparing for mission trips affect teens, and set them up for a lifetime of service centered on Christ. I can’t wait until we get to Bolivia in March. I am looking forward to seeing the growth, understanding, and spiritual maturity that I am sure will happen when we are on the trip.
Please keep us in your prayers.