We sent Tom off this morning to the Bahama's this morning, along with 27 youth and adults. They're going to be renovating that house.
Yes, it's a house.
When Tom first showed me the picture, I assumed it was a chicken coop. I'm not sure the size of the family that lives in it, but I know it's going to be a big job.
People always sort of chuckle when they find out that they're serving in the Bahamas..."that's going to be tough", you hear sarcastically. What most Americans don't realize (because they rarely make it past the Straw Market, where the cruise ships dock or the sand of their resort) is that the islands of the Bahamas are incredibly destitute. There is no industry except tourism and "processing" oil from Venezuela to be sold here in the US. Everything must be brought to the islands, tariff's are incredibly high and a gallon of paint can easily cost over $50. A gallon of milk, over $8. It is cheaper to buy new clothes than to buy a small container of Tide to wash them with. And of course, with the economy here the way it is, those tourism dollars have been few and far between over the last few years.
I was trying to count up the other day how many times I've seen Tom off to some other country, to a weekend retreat, a convention or other event. I couldn't. I do know we've been married almost 14 years and that he started in youth ministry a little over a year before we were married. And I know that he's lead a cross-cultural missions trip every single year. He's also done camp/conventions/retreats at least once or twice a year since then...so I'm thinking it's been at least 30 times in over 15 years of youth ministry.
It's never easy for us when he's gone. He is very much the head of our home, and it's just not quite right without him. And yet, I know that the work he is doing along with our team is going to change lives. Of course, it will directly impact the family that lives in that little blue house, but it will impact those who have gone to serve even more perhaps. In that 15 years that Tom has been a youth pastor, I've watched hundreds - perhaps thousands - of youth have their lives changed by trips and service opportunities just like these. Their faith grows stronger. Their ties with the church grow deeper. And in many of them, it awakens possibilities that they'd never considered before. We've been blessed to see so many youth grow up and go into full time missions, to serve in their churches and to continue to lead lives that God uses.
That is an amazing thing.
I don't know how much longer Tom will be a youth pastor. I do know that missions will always be a strong part of his ministry, wherever and whatever role that might be.
I don't think I'd want it any other way.