Los Angeles. Atlanta. Philadelphia. Columbus.

As I reflect on an incredible summer of student missions, I am reminded of the people we served and the people we served with, the long days of travel (over 7,132 miles, whether by van or by plane), the beautiful sights, the heart-breaking (and heart-shaping) experiences we all had, the moments of gut-busting laughter, the leadership shown by students, and how proud I feel of what our students accomplished because they allowed God to use them. I am reminded most, though, of my favorite part of summer missions: that what happens while on the trip often does not stay there.

Olivia Snyder was one of the students on the Philadelphia mission trip. While in Philly, we participated in various ministries, but for many of us our favorite part of the trip was the Kids Camp we got to lead at Mifflin Park, a small neighborhood park in the city. Every day we would set up speakers, tarps for the kids to sit on, and get ready for camp. Our students got to interact and play with the kids, then sit alongside them and participate in the activities. At the conclusion of camp, students gathered up with a small group to talk about the lesson and also to share the Gospel. Near the end of the week, Olivia came up to one of our leaders with a big smile on her face after group time. She exclaimed, “I just got to lead someone to Christ!” Praise God! What I love the most is that Olivia is one of many students who consistently serves in our Grace Kids ministry back home.

Her story is just one of many. This summer we traveled 99 students on summer missions, along with 26 adult leaders. This past weekend, over 30 middle school students participated in a local mission trip as a part of the #ForWayneCounty movement. God has used and will continue to use students to reach people for Christ – and He uses these experiences to shape the students who go as well.

Overall, I feel grateful. Grateful for the students, the life change, the experiences, and grateful to be a part of a church that believes in the Gospel, reaching people for Christ, and the next generation. That’s why I want to say THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for your generous giving that supports student missions and for your encouragement through prayer for our teams. You made an investment in students that has led to God making an impact all throughout this country, from the West Coast to the East Coast.

Billy Starkey, Grace Students Director