Teen Missions International

This is the symbol that changed my life.  As you can see on top, they have a great logo: Training Tomorrow’s Missionary Today. This ministry, Teen Missions International , has literally trained and sent thousands of teenagers around the world to do missionary work.  It was the belief of the early founders of TMI, such as Bob & Bernie Bland, Gayle “Widder” Will, and Bob & Betty Lane, along with others, that it was not necessary for young people to finish college before God could use them in His Kingdom Work.

And so TMI was born in 1970, and within a couple of years, the first team of a few leaders and about 15-20 teenagers went down to Mexico for a summer and did a construction project to help the local missionaries and nationals living there.  And God blessed Teen Missions so much, that by the time I went on my first summer mission with TMI, they were sending out about 50 teams made of up usually 5 leaders and up to 30 teenagers to places of ministry all over the world.

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It was 1979 when I decided to go on a Teen Missions team.  I was only 18 at the time, and I wanted to go on a construction team to Brazil.  (You can read about how my faith grew even before I started the trip in the article “God Will Supply.“)  As much as the logo mentioned above caught my attention, i.e. “Hey, I’m a teenager and yet I can still go do mission work,” it was their other more famous motto that sold me on wanting to be involved.

The motto was, and still is, “Get Dirty For God“.  And every teen who went on a team received at least one T-shirt with this motto printed on it and would wear it proudly.  Now whether a person who saw this was just curious or possibly offended by this saying, one thing for sure, it caught everyone’s attention.

My understanding was that this motto had two mains ideas within it.  First, it was saying that there is work for God to be done, and we all must roll up our sleeves and pitch in and get the work done.  And then secondly, the isolated locations and the hard work involved in most of the projects resulted in each and everyone getting dirty from head to toe.  And as budding and growing Christians, we did not mind “getting dirty for God”, as we saw churches, orphanages, airstrips, etc. been built and lives changed through the evangelistic outreach which TMI also promoted on all of its teams.

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I need to back up though and tell you more about the beginning of each summer mission experience.  And after you read this part of the story, then you will understand even more how appropriate is their motto, “Get Dirty For God.”  Each teenager and leader must first go down to the swamplands of the Florida Everglades and make it through the two week Boot Camp orientation training.

Everyone lived in little two-men pup tents in their team designated area of the swampland.  That wasn’t too bad….until it rained and soaked everything and everyone.  (I actually saw one tent that had been set up on a 4′ x 8′ plywood board float part way though the Boot Camp.)  Revile was announced with a bugle over the loud speaker and you immediately got up and got ready to run the obstacle course.

There were the tires to jump through (the plagues of Egypt), a mountain of tires to climb (Mt. Sinai), go over a small end of a little lake on a rope netting (crossing the Red Sea), climb straight up and down a rope net that was about 30 feet off the ground (Jacob’s Ladder), swing across a moat, into which many fell in (the Slough of Despond), and other bizarre challenges.  The most daunting one was the last one, climbing over the “Walls of Despair”.  They were 12 feet high and you had to just use your bodies to get your entire team over the wall.  It was to help teach “teamwork”.


We found that the Obstacle Course developed team building, team bonding, and trust, as well as got out of shape teenagers back into shape.  There were of course many other courses given during these two weeks.  We learned how to have a Quiet Time with God, and were taught great spiritual truths by fantastic youth speakers and preachers.

The other main things that we learned were specific skills related to the work we would do for the other mission once we got to the field.  These included classes like steel tying (to make the reinforcement bars hold a shape until concrete was poured over them).  There was also wood-building classes, cement class, and other ones that gave the basic understanding of how to do construction.

Probably the most exciting part of Boot Camp was the evening rallies.  After we had cleaned up for the day, all the teams and leaders, plus staff members and visiting family would gather under the giant circus big top tent.  We were able a few times to pack almost 2,000 people in that tent, 1,500 of them being teenagers who were jumping up and down with joy as they worshiped God, and counted down the days until their team would leave and go fly to their country where they would work.

I’ll never forget those wonderful days when I was a kid and worked hard, and “got dirty for God”.  I had the privilege to do this four times: Brazil-Amazon guest house construction in ’79, Honduras-Country hospital wing extension in ’80, Dominican Republic-church building project in ’84, and Mexico-Christian camp expansion project in ’85.

What can I say to God except, “Thank You”.  Yes, thank you God for granting me these experiences and in each experience I found myself growing more in my faith and in the depth of my understanding of who God is.  Those commissioning services that sent us out from the Big Top Tents in Florida truly sent us with the power of God’s Spirit so that we were able to do some great Kingdom work in all different corners of the world.

Pictures Taken from TMI Official Website:  http://www.teenmissions.org

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