By Dean C.
Last fall, my wife asked me if we should sign up our 5 year old for the SJCAC missions trip with YWAM in San Francisco. My immediate reaction was, “Are you sure the minimum age is 5 years? That must be a mistake. Isn’t YWAM located in the Tenderloin? The infamous neighborhood with prevalent drug use and crime? Maybe they meant a 15 year minimum age. I don’t know how little kids would be able to serve on this missions trip.”
Well, we confirmed that it was not a mistake. They really were allowing 5 year olds to register! I was still hesitant to sign our child up, but we saw this as an opportunity to take a step of faith and allow God to work wonders.
When we first arrived at YWAM, it was a bit of a shock. The streets were filled with an unbearable stench of urine, body odor, and smoke. Our dorms were in a dingy basement with old mattresses that reminded me of a prison. Yet, I did not hear a single child complain of the conditions! In fact, the kids were bold and eager to serve. They joyfully served homeless people meals, handed out hot chocolate (even as it scalded their hands), cleaned up the neighborhood, and talked and prayed for people on the street. God completely shattered the limitations that I had placed on the children!
Another area that God amazed me was how the children could hear from Him. We read from James 2 one day during our Time With Abba: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” The kids were able to apply this verse to conclude that they should both pray for people and help them physically. That faith without deeds is like having muscles but not using them…both would be useless!
The greatest takeaway I received from the trip was that helping people in poverty goes beyond providing for their material needs, such as giving them food or giving them money. In fact, there are many, many services in San Francisco that will feed the homeless and provide for their physical needs. However, being stuck in the cycle of poverty is also about feeling worthless, hopeless, despair, or that no one cares about them. We witnessed this first hand when we asked a woman on the street if we could pray for her. Before we had even uttered a word, she already started weeping. That showed us that she was deeply moved by the fact that anyone even cared enough to pray for her.
It was remarkable to see how God proved me wrong about the capabilities of children. God could even use 5 year olds to serve, hear His Word, and pray for others. If you have children or youth, I would highly recommend them to sign up for next summer’s YWAM San Francisco missions trip. God will reveal things to you that you didn’t know were possible!