By John Gordon
United Methodist News Service
PLANO, Texas – They’re kids on a mission, packing flood buckets for victims of recent hurricanes and making blankets for wounded soldiers.
“It’s really fun because you get to help people,” says Zoe Pitts, 7.
Mission Possible Kids (www.missionpossiblekids.org) are proving children can make a difference, addressing problems in their own neighborhoods and around the world. The program started at Christ United Methodist Church in the Dallas suburb of Plano and now includes chapters in 17 states.
“There are so many different spy things and movies, and the kids just all love to pretend that they’re spies. The concept with this is they get to be special agents doing God’s work,” explains Kathy Meadows, founder and executive director of Mission Possible Kids.
“God has missions that he wants these kids to go on to help other people,” she says. “So we give them those missions to go on.”
Meadows, a member of Christ United Methodist Church, started the program in 2003 as a hands-on experience for kids – and was surprised when 160 showed up for the first meeting.“We knew, immediately, we had struck a nerve, for something that parents and kids alike were looking for,” she says.
Meadows started a nonprofit organization to help other churches and organizations set up Mission Possible Kids programs.
Some missions are close to home, such as collecting donations for local food banks, volunteering at hospitals and making blankets for animal shelters.Other projects span the globe, such as making “bandana buddy” toys for orphans in Guatemala and collecting eyeglasses for children in Cameroon.
Scientists at a remote base in Antarctica, accessible by air only once a year, are among the estimated 120,000 people touched so far by Mission Possible Kids’ projects.
“We worked out a way, during that one time a year, to fly in a jar of warm wishes to them,” says Meadows. “The kids packed this jar with tons of warm wishes. They could pull out one every day of the year and know the kids were thinking about them.”
Kids feel different
As more chapters are launched, Meadows expects her “secret agents” will reach a milestone of helping 500,000 people by the middle of 2009. The program is aimed at kids in kindergarten through the sixth grade, though older children also participate as mentors.
“It makes me feel like I’m being a good person,” says Alex Paul, 9, a member of Custer Road United Methodist Church in Plano. “No matter what age we are, we can still contribute.”
His mother, Lynn Paul, notices a difference.“It’s just been a real surprise to me about how much Alexander loves to come and be part of this, and he thinks a lot more about others,” she says. “It starts the conversations at home about the other people in the world who need things.”
Brayden Bishop, 11, enjoys helping others and spending time with his friends working on Mission Possible Kids’ projects.“We raised money for people in Mexico to build homes,” he says. “Not only do we get to help people all the time, but we get to help people while doing it with our friends. And it just makes it that much more special.”
Every church needs one
The young agents do “some amazing things,” says the Rev. Don Underwood, pastor at Christ United Methodist.
“They’re really learning a philosophy of life that will sustain them through the years,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, every (United) Methodist church in the country would be stronger if they had a Mission Possible Kids chapter.”
Meadows sees no limits to the work of Mission Possible Kids. She hopes to continue expanding the program in the United States and organize chapters in other countries.
“There’s just many different ways that these kids learn and open their eyes to the needs of the world,” she says. “They’re changing themselves, they’re changing their families-and we fully believe that these kids are going to change the world in the process.”