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Connecting with Family: Why a Mission Trip Will Change Your Kids

Connecting with family these days isn’t easy. There are the obvious family bonding activities other blogs suggest like eating together, reading, sports, church, etc., but what about doing a community service project together? More importantly, what about a mission trip?

I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. It may be easier than you think.

For instance, a good idea might be to go to the Texas-Mexico border. My family has ministered to the people in The Colonias doing VBS, soccer camps, construction, painting, and food distribution for many years.

This one thing has changed my family and taught my kids things I could never teach them at home or at church. Going on a mission trip is that important. Really. 

Connecting with family away from your home and regular routines will make a difference.

RELATED: The Greatest Secret to Having Healthy Family Relationships

Why is Connecting with Family Important?

Connecting with family is important so your kids feel loved and important in your family unit. Parents who have strong relationships long-term tend to have kids who listen and do the right thing when they are older.

Also, kids who have bonded in their family tend to foster healthy connections and relationships with others because it was modeled in their family of origin.

The most meaningful family bonding activities my family has experienced are not at an amusement park, a sports field, or even a fun vacation. It has been through a service project in an impoverished area called The Colonias in South Texas.

The particular group our church has gone through every year is Hearts4Kids. It was a good choice for us because it was not only inexpensive but it was also close, not to mention that they are highly reputable. We know the leaders personally.

We also liked going on the trip because a lot of our family friends and their kids attended with us. It made it fun for our kids. We not only bonded as a family, but we bonded with other believers in our church.

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The Best Family Bonding Activities to Do As a Family

The best family bonding activities we have done together are to do mission trips at the South Texas border (The Colonias, South Texas).

You may wonder what are The Colonias. They are communities in an unincorporated makeshift area about a mile from the Texas-Mexico border. These areas are just beyond the municipal boundaries of any city or town.

Many sections of land have no drinking water, electricity, or sewage service. Texas has the largest number of Colonia residents; more than 500,000, mostly immigrants, who live in these shanty houses.

The land in these areas is subdivided by unscrupulous owners who sell a plot, often to buyers who don’t understand the terms of the agreement. Many times the owner will give false promises utilities will be installed. Of course, it never happens.

If the terms of the agreement are not kept, the family is thrown off the property only for the same thing to happen again to the next unsuspecting residents.

Sadly, these people have no recourse since they don’t understand English and barely have enough money to live.

Many of the houses in the Colonias barely stand up straight because they are built with a mixture of plywood, cinderblocks, metal scraps, and tar paper.

Residents have extension cords running from one shanty to another trying to get electricity to their shelters. Some shelters are a little better than a cardboard box.

While driving through the area, I saw one makeshift home that had three “walls” (scrap wood) barely secured and no roof. A baby was sitting outside of the “home” in the 100-degree heat left in a stroller by himself. There was no one around.

It was beyond imaginable. I wanted to stop and rescue the child, but we had to keep driving to our destination. This is the hardest thing about being a community worker; you are overwhelmed with the thousands of needs everywhere you turn.

RELATED: 25 Different Methods of Prayer That Are Powerful

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How to Emotionally Reconnect with Your Family?

If you want to emotionally reconnect with your family, look outside of yourselves and focus on others. One of the ways we did this was  One home we visited was basically a dumping ground for garbage and old metal scraps.

The “house” was a big box on blocks with no electricity, water, or sewage. The people inside were barely existing.

It smelled like death. Yes, death has a smell. 

We found dead rats under the house that had been meticulously slit open and gutted. It appeared they had been eating the rats for food. This still haunts me. I don’t know how they were living this way.

The good news is that a day later our teens decided we should all go back and help them clean up their yard. We also brought more food for the family.

All of this happened because we discovered them while walking in the area, and the teens decided to go back the next day. This one act changed the trajectory of a family’s life. Eventually, they accepted Jesus and moved.

From this one experience, my kids learned how their behavior affects others greatly, not to mention how blessed they truly are to live the life they have. They would never have learned this at home in Dallas. There are some things you just have to experience firsthand.

RELATED: Intentional Parenting: 9 Meaningful Activities to Do With Your Kids

How Do You Emotionally Reconnect with Your Family?

You may wonder why going on a mission trip in an area that is dirty and forgotten will help you emotionally reconnect with your family. It seems counterintuitive.  The secret sauce is that volunteering together away from home will help you to find what really matters.

My otherwise, phone-addicted teenage children, had to put down their devices for several days and work. At first, it was shocking because the world was no longer about them. But after a while, they started to engage with the community. More importantly, the children. They started to understand what poverty looked like, they felt it’s relentless sting. And then they realized how blessed they were to have so much.

This alone changed me as I watched my kids find the true meaning of life in this community service project. True happiness is not found in a bigger house, a faster car, or a better job. It is found in giving to others who will never be able to pay you back.

When you see your son pick up trash in a stranger’s yard for hours or you see your daughter give a child extra snacks because he has not eaten all day, it makes you realize this is the best thing your family has ever done together.

My family found true purpose in the heat, dust, and dirt of an abandoned area that no one else cares about. We found who we really are as a family and as Christians who love Jesus.

I will be forever grateful for this is one of the greatest family bonding activities as it truly bonded my family together and they learned how to have compassion for others.

My daughter has said over and over again she would rather be in South Texas than on a big, fancy vacation.

RELATED: 15 Pro Tips For Raising a Teenage Girl (Who May Be Difficult)

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Connecting with Family: Why a Mission Trip Will Change Your Kids 1How Do You Bond With Kids?

Don’t miss the opportunity to do one of the best family bonding activities with your family. Find something that fits you and your kid’s passion. It will make the time together more meaningful and fun. It helps if they have friends doing it too.

Warning: Your kids may complain at first, so don’t give in to the whining. Once you get there, everyone will eventually settle in and find where they fit best in the community activity. Make sure you have a great attitude and are willing to help or your kids will pick up on it.

They won’t want to help if you don’t help.

Once the day is over, talk as a family about what happened and how everyone felt about what they saw. Let them share their experiences. You will be amazed at what they learned. In fact, you may even cry when you see how it changed them forever.

I would love to hear how your family bonding activities changed your family. Write it in the comments below. 

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57 thoughts on “Connecting with Family: Why a Mission Trip Will Change Your Kids”

  1. This is a wonderful ministry that you and your church embark. It’s a privilege to be in a position to help others and this experience is enriching the lives of the children and grownups involved. God bless you! <3

  2. What a gift your family is to the families who so desperately need your help!
    It is a blessing to be able to share these teachable moments with your children.
    I can begin to imagine how hard life must be for them. It truly puts things into perspective.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Rachel, mission trips are such a blessing to our family. We are the ones who learn and grow. These people are so thankful for the smallest things. It is a huge reality check.

    1. Thanks, Terri. If there is anything I am passionate about, it is helping those who are hurting. I wish I could do more. I want others to see the truth of what is going on down there.

    1. Thanks. I am just one person doing a little, tiny bit. There are organizations that are doing way more than me. I am so glad to be a part of a church that recognizes the need in our own backyard.

  3. It’s interesting to read this in light of all that has been happening at the border recently. I’m an American who is fluent in Spanish and I always think about doing something like this. I actually learned Spanish working with undocumented immigrants in my city. I am someone totally in favor of an immigration reform because just like you, I personally know many. It really changes your perspective when you personally know people. No longer are they just statistics.

    1. I hope you will get involved. There are many people that are needed down there that are bi-lingual. I felt so limited because of the language barrier. Although, most all the kids can speak English. Thanks for your comment.

  4. Thank you for your informative post which has enlightened me. I am sure many others have learned something new from your post

  5. I commend you for the mission work you do and the journies you are taking in the hopes of reaching and helping others. I love that this has helped enrich your kid’s lives and in return, your family is helping to enrich the lives of many kids and families.

  6. It’s awesome that you and your family are helping out those in need . . . it really does put things in perspective! It’s absolutely crazy that there are such huge differences in wealth in our country.

    1. Ann, it is hard to believe that we live in the same state as these people. I am shocked at how little people know about this problem. I am glad there is more talk on immigration. Hopefully, people will do something.

  7. As a person from different country it seams very odd to me. It is a problem needs a close attention and I am sorry you guys have to live with it. Thank you for sharing the inside look on it

    1. Lyosha, we do have a big problem here. We need some serious help on immigration. There are so many countries around us that are not doing what they are supposed to. I don’t blame them for wanting to leave, but it is not good for us either. We are caught because these are real people who need help.

  8. This is heart breaking to hear and also the video really brings home how lucky most of us are here in Western Europe. A few years ago my family visited Disney in Florida and then went down towards Naples. We got lost somewhere ( i can’t tell you where as I’m not sure) but we came across acres and acres of a shanty town… I was shocked by the poverty i saw in a state that seemed so wealthy. The Colonias seem worse than that shanty town and i can’t begin to understand what those poor people suffer daily.

    1. Kathryn, it is so hard to believe this goes on in the USA. I am shocked, too. It kills me how much the kids are suffering. A lot of these people are US citizens which is even more shocking. It is definitely a reality check. Thanks for your comment.

  9. It’s heartbreaking to see places such as this one. It’s a blessing your family is able to help. You may not be able to help everyone but your best if good enough. I know that doesn’t make it any easier to see all the needs that’s still not fulfilled. Places such as this is why I choose to make a conscious decision to not complain.

    1. Tara, isn’t that right! A bad day in my life is a dream in their life. I try not to complain much either. If I do start to get whinny, it is a sure sign I need to volunteer more. It is easy to get caught up in my own first world problems and forget about others. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Your family sounds incredible! It’s so sad that people have to live like this, but I bet they are so grateful for people like you who help as much as you can.

    1. Jean, my kids are pretty cool. Of course, it didn’t start that way. One of my kiddos hated going to do any volunteer work. They have been around it long enough it has finally made a difference. Thanks for your sweet comment.

  11. Thank you for shedding light on this terrible situation. I pray that more is done and that each of us contribute in our own way. God bless you.

  12. I couldn’t stop reading this! I had no idea about this place. What your doing is wonderful. So many mission trips go all the way across the world when it is some places in the US that needs our help too. Will share this with my youth group thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Kala, it is a great place to go on a mission trip. It is in the US but it sure doesn’t feel like it when you see the conditions of these people. Maybe your youth group would be interested. Thanks for your comment.

  13. I did some volunteering in Central America throughout high school, and it was so important to my evolution as a person to see the way that people lived outside of my upper-middle-class, suburban-American existence. To connect with other people through things as simple as laughter and play is the most basic kind of joy. I’m glad that you and your kids have gotten to have the same experiences–good for you for exposing your family to what life is like outside of your own microcosm. They’ll be better people for it, and hopefully it makes a difference in the lives of others as well!

    1. Robin, what a great experience. I am so impressed your parents let you go. What a mature thing for a high-schooler to do I bet you were changed forever. My daughter is doing more of this kind of work this summer so I know it has been great for her. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Wow! I had no idea this went on in the United States. I’ve seen service opportunities like this in Mexico, but not here. How can others get involved?

    We once visited some very rural, poor villages in China, which changed my children’s lives. I’d love to do that again!

    1. Liz, I am blessed to know them. They changed the lives of my family. They are so thankful for whatever we do for them. And the kids are precious. So cute and happy. I learned a lot from them. Thanks for reading.

  15. This reminds me of homeless camps that are throughout the US. It’s sad that there are unscrupulous people that make promises that they do not intend to keep. Glad that you are able to help out where you can.

  16. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea this place even existed. I guess I need to get out a little more and see what others don’t want to. What you and your family are doing is wonderful!

  17. Julie, thank you for such an informative and inspiring post. I had heard the term Colonias before but never understood what it meant. So I appreciate learning about them. It must be so heartbreaking to see these places and the conditions people live in. What a formative experience for you and your children to get involved and help where you can. I am sure that it does give you tremendous perspective on what is important and an appreciation of what you and your family have. Blessings to you and well done for helping the marginalized and vulnerable. You are so right, Jesus was with you and I imagine He was nodding and saying, “Well done, my good and faithful servants.”

    1. Anne, what a beautiful comment. Thank you for your thoughts. I am glad I could help shed light on an area that is so forgotten. It is heartbreaking to witness some of these sad things. It takes a while to mentally process. Bless you!

  18. God bless your good heart! This is so sad that there are people that have to live that way. I am thankful for people like you and your family who go out of their way to make these people’s lives a little better even for just a short time. Thanks for raising awareness and may your tribe increase!

    1. Thanks so much. Our church is constantly sending people down to this area. It is a great way to do something so meaningful in my own state. We don’t even need a passport. Thanks for reading.

  19. This is such a great thing to do with your children! And I agree that participating in something like this, really shows you what is important in life. Thank you for the work that you and your Church do in volunteering for causes like this!

    1. I am just a small part of such a large mission group in my church. They send many people down to the Colonias during the year. I feel so blessed to be a part of a big mission. Thanks for reading.

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