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* the lost boys

February 22, 2016

When taking youth on a missions trip, it’s best not to lose any of your kids. Even temporarily.

Helping to chaperone youth mission trips with our church is generally an easy, fun to do task. So far I’ve accompanied youth to Queens, NY, Beattyville, KY, Chicago, IL (twice), Duluth, MN, Atlantic Mountain, SD, Wind River, WY and Juarez, Mexico (twice). In all those trips save one we’ve never wondered where any of our youth were at any time during the trip. However, there was once when this was not the case.

We were on our way home from one of the toughest trips I’ve ever taken. To Juarez, Mexico. In July. Where temperatures had been over 10o degrees all week long. While it deserves its own story, we were exhausted. And finally, with a night at a nice, air conditioned hotel in Albuquerque, we were looking forward to debriefing the week with our kids. All until, at about 9pm at night, we found 3 of our boys missing.

Now this is not good. The whole idea of having chaperoned trips is to prevent this from happening. While we were at a nice hotel, it was near the airport in a not-so-nice part of town. So what to do? We’d been dropped off at the hotel, so didn’t even have a vehicle to use.  Several of us walked the blocks immediately around the hotel, but not knowing which direction to head, chose not to head out further. Assuming they’d return, we gave them an hour. Then two. Finally, about 11pm with our boys still missing, we decided we needed to start calling parents to let them know what had happened, as by this time it was already midnight in the US. And then, shortly thereafter our boys returned.

Had there been a flight still that night, we would have flown them home early. But there was none before our flight the next day. So we gave them a room for the night and the next day, with our young boys to men looking very guilty as they sat by themselves, we flew home together.

Lessons learned? Clearly explain repercussions of disappearing before and during a missions trip. Keep an eye on kids, something we found quite difficult to do in a hotel. Potentially group kids in small groups of 5 or so to see if this would help ensure compliance on not wandering off. And if kids do go missing again, possibly call parents and the police sooner. And if they don’t, then remember to thank the good Lord whenever you return home with everyone having been accounted for the entire trip.

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