Does your family have a road trip planned for the summer? Maybe a vacation or a chance to visit faraway friends and family? I love road trips! I love to see new things and meet new people. I love to go exploring with my family. More than almost anything else on a road trip, I love to learn new things. One thing I have learned (and it didn’t take long) is that I have no sense of direction. Absolutely none. I’m the one who loses her vehicle in the parking lot, who forgets which side of the store she entered on, and who can get lost in a museum while holding a map. Thankfully for me, God knew this (way before I did) and has blessed me with a sister with an uncanny sense of direction. As long as we travel together and I don’t argue too much about which way we’re supposed to be going, it works splendidly!
Can you relate? Are you the driver or the follower?
I do have a few jobs when we travel, however. The first thing I do is pray. While she has to concentrate on which of the six lanes of traffic we need to be in, or has to navigate busy traffic, or is trying to drive through blinding rain, I pray.
I also help watch for signs. Signs are everywhere, and each of them has a message. They tell us when to speed up and when to slow down, when a hazardous situation is up ahead, and where we need to be if we plan to arrive at our destination. I think my favorite sign is the one that says, “Watch Children.” That’s a road sign with a powerful message. Watching out for children while driving is imperative; watching children in our day-to-day lives is a privilege full of blessings. They inspire, encourage, and challenge us like nothing else to be the people God created us to be.
Road Trips and Missions
But is there a way we can use signs and road trips to learn about missions? I think so! I recently finished reading a biography of Samuel Zwemer, pioneer missionary to Arabia. His life was full of ups and downs, detours and redirection. Consider the following “road signs” he encountered on his journey:
Detour: One of the earliest challenges Samuel Zwemer faced was funding and support. He applied to the missions board of a church and was denied. Three months later, he and his colleagues decided to establish their own mission to Arabia.
Steep Incline: One of the keys to becoming a missionary in Arabia was learning the Arabic language, considered by many to be one of the most difficult languages in the world to master. The task loomed large in front of him, but he went forward.
One Way: Throughout his life, he never failed to preach the truth—Jesus is the only Way to Heaven.
Private Property: He surrendered ownership of his life to God. He knew that whatever happened, whether success or tragedy, God reigned sovereignly over his life.
Reduced Speed Ahead: Despite his passion and zeal for his work, there were times he was forced to slow down and wait for God to act.
Bridge: Samuel learned early in his college years that the most effective way to communicate the Gospel message to people was to work alongside them, whether that meant helping them on their farm or dispensing medical care in the mission field.
Yield: As each of us does, Samuel faced the need to yield his will to God’s many times throughout his journey.
Fun Activities for Kids
Kids love to hunt for things on road trips, whether it is license plates, letters on signs, or unique vehicles. The next time you know you have a long road trip planned, consider trying this activity that will help you reinforce important lessons we can learn from Samuel Zwemer and many others.
Before your road trip:
1) Choose a missionary biography to read with your children.
2) Print these Road Signs and Meanings Notebooking Pages. Identify the road signs common in your area. Do you see “Slippery When Wet” signs? As you read, watch for tales of sea voyages and dangerous waves. What about “Wrong Way” signs? Watch to see if there is a point in the missionary story when he or she is headed the wrong way. Talk about the story together and see how many road sign moments you can spot in the story. Record your thoughts on the notebooking pages. (There are blank notebooking pages included so you can add additional road signs as needed.)
On your road trip:
3) Take your notebooking pages with you on your next road trip. As you travel, watch for the road signs you found in the story. See how many you can spot! You can also download this free fill-in and map puzzle about the life of Samuel Zwemer.
Finally, don’t forget to be on the lookout for more signs that relate to your story. Your children’s insights may surprise you. All you have to do is watch children.