Missions and Disney. I know what people may be thinking, “Missions and Disney? What do these have in common?” I will try my best to explain the correlation.
As a family, we enjoy the time that we spend together going on vacation and getting away for a time of rest and relaxation. For us, living in Florida is an additional blessing. The reason is simple. One of our favorite places to go on our family vacation is Walt Disney World. When our children were younger, we loved watching them as their favorite Disney characters came to life right before their eyes. Practically everything we expected from Disney came true. Yet, for our children, they discovered and experienced things that they did not realize they would. As our children have grown, we still appreciate the wonder and attraction that Disney World offers. Today, because of our previous experiences, our appreciation is on a different level.
Several years ago, Kathaleen, a church member, called and said, “Pastor I want to show you a video. It is from the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. The video is about a missions ministry in Guatemala.” I told her that would be fine and then she continued and said, “I only need fifteen minutes of your time.” Kathaleen came to my office and fifteen minutes quickly turned into well over an hour. As her pastor, I did not mind the extended meeting. As I watched the video, I felt compassion over the enormous need that existed then and still exists today for the children at the Malnutrition Center in San Juan, Sacatepéquez. Worldwide, among children under the age of five, Guatemala has the fourth highest under-nutrition/malnutrition rate.
Immediately, I felt the need to be involved with Orphan’s Heart and the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes to serve these malnourished children.
The video reminded me of the verse in James that says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27a). As the Pastor, I thought to myself, this is exactly what we need to do. Our mission at Highland Baptist Church is to help people discover life and impact eternity one life at a time. Therefore, it is easy to understand that our church’s mission strategy, needed to include going to the Malnutrition Center and loving on those precious orphan babies. Then, as a father, another piece of that video spoke directly to my heart.
Brad Bryant, a pro-golfer with the PGA Tour, gave testimony about what Jesus did in his heart and life as he ministered to the sweet children at the Malnutrition Center. Mr. Bryant concluded his testimony by making a comparison between Disney and missions. He expressed that people save money all year to go to Disney as a family, so, why not save money all year to go on a family mission trip with Orphan’s Heart to the Malnutrition Center in Guatemala? God was moving my heart. At the end of the video, I exclaimed, “We need to do this! We need to take our people to this Malnutrition Center in Guatemala.”
After the meeting, we set a date for our mission trip. Then, we continued praying, planning, and resourcing this trip. In October of 2011, my wife, Sara and daughter, Savanna along with 26 others from our church went to the Malnutrition Center. The stories were heart stirring, displaying for everyone the great need that exists at the Malnutrition Center. Sara and Savanna were so moved by the experience that they vowed to return. So, in December, they will be returning. The difference this time is that we are going as a family to the Malnutrition Center in San Juan, Sacatepéquez. Micah, my son, and I will be going on our first trip to the Center. We are excited about what God has in store for us. As a family, this is a part of the vision that God’s placed in our hearts. Prayerfully, this portion of our vision will come to fruition in December.
Throughout the year, we will save in order to go on vacation. The anticipation grows as we plan and prepare for our trip to Disney, or wherever we have planned to travel. At the dinner table, we will talk about the trip. We dream about what we are going to do on the trip. As we vacation, our family experiences the wonder and we also make a lifetime of memories.
This year we have saved in order to go on a family mission trip. We have planned, prepared and worked to travel to the Malnutrition Center. To assist in raising the funds needed to go on this trip, Sara and Savanna created a photography ministry called “Mini-shoots for Missions.” This has been a creative way to raise money for missions and at the same time provide high-quality photos for each family. Our dinner conversations have been about what we will experience as we go to Guatemala. Sara and Savanna have explained what the Lord did in them and what they pray He has in store for our entire family as we go to Guatemala.
As a family, we have been envisioning what it is going to be like as we experience missions together. We are anxiously anticipating what God’s going to do through us as we serve Him. Our prayer is for God to use us as we go on mission, knowing that we will have a lifetime of memories. In addition to the memories, we pray that lives are touched and hearts are changed as we strive to impact eternity one precious life at a time.
Brian Calhoun has been pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Molino for six years. He is a Florida native, and graduate of Pensacola State College, the University of West Florida and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. Calhoun and his wife, Sara, have two children, Savanna and Micah.
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