serving as a family

As the Warren family prepares to bring their now four-year-old daughter, Olivia, on her third DR trip, we asked them to share a little about what it means to go on a trip with a team that includes kids. Read on for a recap of our discussion at our third 2016 team meeting on June 6, and thank you to Ben and Amanda for being willing to open up and share your experiences and expectations!

We have been emotionally and financially committed to REUNION’s partnership in the DR since around 2009. In 2011, we joined the team for the first time, and in 2014 we brought Olivia with us for the first time. This year will be her third trip. We bring our kiddo for a lot of reasons, but more than anything, we can’t think of reasons not to bring her. We thought long and hard on how to articulate more than that, but if you’ve heard why REUNION is committed to this mission you’ve heard why we go, so I won’t belabor that point.

Instead, as the returning parents on a trip with three different kids all under the age of 10, we would like to discuss expectations—for us, for you, and for Olivia. In years past, we’ve written up goals for Team Warren and for Olivia, which we have shared as a way of setting boundaries so other team members would know what was expected of Olivia and how they could engage. This year, we spent hours pouring over last year’s goals, figuring out how to update them, reword them, or share them. We finally realized that when our team leaders asked us to share our expectations, we needed to look no further than the covenant each of us signed with GO Ministries when we committed to the trip. That one page outlines expectations for every team member, which includes Olivia and the other kids on the trip, not just those of us over the age of 18. We want to highlight a couple of them specifically and talk about our expectations for our kiddo.

Remember that I am representing Jesus Christ. I will model Jesus in my behavior and attitude.
At home, we have a typical routine, but Olivia is very aware that we’re more adventurous on the road. When fun things come up like visiting friends or attending special events, we don’t let our schedule dictate when we say yes or no. To this end, we expect her to participate in all of the activities we do in whatever way she’s capable—even if that means skipping a usual nap or falling asleep in daddy’s arms while we’re all hanging out in the evenings. And while she’s participating, she should be pleasant to be around.

Remember that I am part of a team and that I am not the most important person on this trip. Each team member is equally important. | Develop and maintain a servant attitude toward all nationals and my teammates.
To this end, Olivia will share, take turns, and wait. Travel requires patience and young kids don’t have much of that. She might not like it, but we expect her to take turns with both adults and other kids throughout the day, especially when she’s in groups and when she’s playing with kids she doesn’t know well. Sharing comes with toys, but it also comes with being a productive part of society (taking her turn filling her plate, taking her turn with a paint brush, throwing away her own trash, cleaning up her own messes). She does not need adults to wait on her.

Remember that I am a guest working at the invitation of my hosts. I will remember the missionary’s prayer, “Where you lead me I will follow, what you feed me I will swallow.”
You should fully expect Olivia to eat what we eat. She doesn’t have to eat the whole thing. But in our home and in the DR, she does have to tolerate items on her plate and hopefully will even put items in her mouth and chew. Besides, we’ve quickly learned that Olivia’s favorite foods are chicken, rice, and beans anyway, so she’s kind of in her own personal heaven with team meals in the DR. Don’t worry, we travel with snacks, just in case, and we like to share!

“I will be open to learning about other people’s methods and ideas” and “I recognize that Christianity has many faces throughout the world, and that the purpose of this trip is to experience faith lived out in a new setting.”
When we walk or ride on buses, trains, and planes, Olivia often points out what she sees. We then follow up with a conversation about how that person or thing fits into our community and our culture as Christians, world citizens, Americans, Bostonians, and more. We’re trying to teach her that there are lots of versions of “normal.” Some people have crutches, some have glasses, some are tall, some are short. People pray in different ways. People have different life views, goals, dreams, aspirations. All are valid.

Respect my team leader(s) and his or her decisions.
For Olivia, this means she will listen, obey, and be polite to all adults, not just her parents. She might not like it, but we expect her to stop when an adult says stop, go when an adult says go, and pay attention when someone is speaking to her. When she asks for something, she should say please. She should follow directions when given and shouldn’t be allowed to get away with something you’d deem naughty just because you’re not her parent and one of us didn’t see it.

What we, as parents on the trip, would ask of each of you, is to hold both us and Olivia responsible to upholding this covenant. Pray for us about that. Praise us when we do it well. And don’t be afraid to call us out on it when we’re doing it poorly.