Imagine going to a church that usually only has twenty adults in attendance on a typical Sunday, but instead of only having this meager gathering of faithful members, the church is filled with forty children and youth. This was the story of almost every MIA Caravan we held this summer. We had the opportunity to visit 11 different churches, all with many needs. Some lacked volunteers, others resources, and many of them merely lacked direction and vision of how to engage the young people of their community. This was our hope – to show them that they can minister to the youth and children surrounding their church with a little planning, excitement, and prayer.
Hear our staff share their experience serving on our MIA Caravan team.
A Typical MIA Caravan
We began the weekend by meeting with the church leader and the volunteers from the church, many being our counselors, on Thursday to plan for the MIA Caravan weekend. We went over the schedule, taught them the songs, skits, puppet shows, and even trained a few how to share the Gospel! It was always our intention to get the church members to lead as much of the weekend as possible. This way they had experience and saw that they could do it on their own in the future. It was encouraging to see the counselors so willing to lead and step up in these roles. We then passed out flyers in the town to promote the events and spent time fellowshipping together.
On Friday and Saturday morning we had our kids event which was a three-hour VBS-style program with songs, games, an evangelistic puppet show, crafts, English lessons, and a Gospel presentation. Then, during the afternoons we had the youth event with big water games, bubble soccer, or obstacle courses. After playing games we had snacks, skits, testimonies, and a Gospel presentation. During the events, we made sure to invite them and their families to church on Sunday where they received special awards and prizes, and had a pizza party to celebrate.
Impact and Response
We were amazed by the outcome of how many came on Sunday. Many of these children had never been to church before. We even had a boy bring his grandpa since we encouraged them to bring their family members. That day, this grandpa heard the Gospel during the church service and spoke with the pastor afterward. He gave his life to Christ that day. We never expected to have such a ripple effect amongst these communities.
Throughout the weekend and afterward, our team tried to encourage these ministry partners to think big and plan how they could begin to serve and reach out to the children and youth of their community. Many had great ideas and some had already begun planning these activities before we came. As we continued to travel from each location, we were so excited to see that one church in Denta already had a VBS two weeks after we were there and another church in Nadlac began hosting a monthly kids club on Saturday mornings.
After seeing the positive feedback and impact we had on these churches, we know that MIA Caravans were not something we should just do during the pandemic. We want to continue to build these relationships with churches, counselors, and encourage our counselors to serve and lead in a bigger role at their home churches.
So What is Next?
First, we followed up with all the participants by sending them texts, calling them, sending a collage from the event, sending a letter with a small devotional book, and now we are currently working on calling all of them a second time to invite them to begin to be discipled or to join one of our online Bible studies. We evaluated all eleven churches and narrowed them down to seven that have a willing pastor, counselors, and passion to reach out into their community and meet the youth where they are.
Beginning last week, Iulian, Iulia, and Filip are traveling to these seven churches to encourage them and discuss further ways we can partner with them and support them. We are beginning to strategize and plan with each church leader how they can begin youth meetings in their church and what training and materials they need from us.
In addition to visiting these churches, as we look at the success we had this summer, we plan to adapt the typical sports tournaments we have held for many years and blend them with our MIA Caravans. We believe that a blend of the two is more supportive of the local church and is more engaging for both children and youth and more Gospel-centered.
We are excited to see what the future holds when it comes to this area of our ministry. We are thankful that God provided this opportunity and that He is continuing to bless us and the churches we get to partner with. Please pray for them and the work they are doing to reach the youth of their community.