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Josh, Pauli, Mark and Kayla Posey with a ceremonial spoon similar to a key to a city that Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, officials presented in recognition of their humanitarian work. The Poseys took a family mission trip to the city, working with International Christian College, an orphanage and churches.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Josh, Pauli, Mark and Kayla Posey with a ceremonial spoon similar to a key to a city that Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, officials presented in recognition of their humanitarian work. The Poseys took a family mission trip to the city, working with International Christian College, an orphanage and churches.

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The Poseys survived - and grew closer - while helping others in Ukraine

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com · 340-2468

When Mark Posey started planning his annual mission trip to Ukraine, he recalled the opportunities and needs he'd seen over the years.

He remembered the beauty of the city and the warm welcome in mission churches.

Mark Posey received a quart jar of fruit preserves from students at the International Christian College in Ukraine.
Daily photo by John Godbey
Mark Posey received a quart jar of fruit preserves from students at the International Christian College in Ukraine.
His whole family needed to go, decided the Austinville Church of Christ minister, who was sent by his congregation.

So he and his wife, Pauli, and their teens arranged to travel to Dnipropetrovsk. Mark Posey left just after Thanksgiving. The rest of his family left Dec. 14 to join him for nine days together.

"Our family will never be the same," said Pauli Posey.

The Poseys reflect a trend among the faithful: families going together to do short-term mission work.

On their trip, the Poseys found themselves spending time together — a lot of time — and navigating a new culture. They traveled hours by tram, train, bus and taxi to attend worship instead of hopping into a car for a three-minute ride.

The Posey teens said they figured Ukraine would be similar to a Third World country. Instead, they found an extensive public transportation system, big industries and a rich history. Dnipropetrovsk was a "closed" city until the 1990s, with outsiders banned because of the weapons production and nuclear facilities there.

While they said they found the society "laid back," they learned that youths had disdain for any cell phone that wasn't the latest. Kayla Posey, 16, said one college student showed her how to find a Bluetooth feature on her phone that she didn't know was there.

The 50 children at the orphanage welcomed the singing, Bible stories and hugs and asked if they knew Britney Spears or Arnold Schwarzenegger, said the Poseys. The staff appreciated the mattresses, socks and blankets that Austinville provided as Christmas presents, said family members.

While at the state-run orphanage, they were shocked to see a 3-year-old dropped off. The girl was unwanted and her parents signed her over, said the Poseys.

Changed

The experience left impressions that made the expense and trouble worthwhile, said Pauli Posey, who taught the book of Ruth to women at the International Christian College.

They had no TV, no computer and no working cell phones. At night, they sat at the kitchen table in the apartment the school owns and talked, told stories and laughed.

Kayla said she is used to American youths who often go to church because it's expected or someone makes them. In Ukraine, young people who came for services chose to be there, she said.

"Some people traveled really far. If they didn't want to be there, they wouldn't be," said Josh Posey, 13.

The teens saw their faith differently, having to travel half a day to get to church and half a day to get home, "and it didn't matter what you had on," said their mother.

They couldn't help but compare their Bible Belt way of life to the absence of religion in many Ukrainians' lives. Probably half of those reached through the Church of Christ ministry had no faith previously, while the rest came out of Orthodox Church backgrounds, said Mark Posey, who taught Bible classes and sermon preparation to men at the International Christian College. Some orphans they met believed in fortune telling and spiritism, he said. Kayla said returning to an American Christmas made her see her "stuff" as great blessings and her faith as more than experiences at the family's hometown church.

Everyone "teared up" when it was time to return to Decatur, Mark Posey said.

"Going as a family brought us significantly closer together. It was like a shot in the arm of togetherness," he said.

Growing trend of families serving together

The Poseys are part of a growing number of those participating as families in short-term mission work. More typical are church volunteers organized by age groups, such as youths or adults.

But Rick Head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board said it is expanding a new family mission program because of demand. He said the intent is to help families leave a legacy of a mission lifestyle, to live out “Go ye into all the world,” as Jesus said in Acts.

Virtually everything is done by a family unit together, from devotionals, discussions, study and worship to actual hands-on ministry, Head said.

He said 200 people came to two July sessions for a pilot project in Lynch, Ky., and planners had to turn people away. On the last days it was heartwarming to see some families hanging around and promising to do it again, he said. He could recall no family “issues” or dynamics that caused problems.

The idea developed after researchers found a strong desire from parents, said Head, who is adult volunteer mobilization senior associate.

Thinking of family missions?

Mission groups such as these are adding opportunities for families to serve:

  • The North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention will have six family mission trips this summer, including two in New Orleans.

  • Woman’s Missionary Union, an SBC auxiliary based in Birmingham, is offering FamilyFEST trips this summer at a cost of $900 for a family of four.

  • Missions to Mexico in Sutherlin, Ore., is an interdenominational group offering family trips.

  • Adventures in Missions in Gainesville, Ga., has family service options.

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