Have you ever been on a short-term team and had to borrow extra suitcases Gordon and Becki West KidZ at Heart Foundersfor all of the “stuff” you “had to” take along to do your ministry? You don’t have to do that on a KidZ at Heart trip…

KidZ at Heart’s short-term teams take little or no stuff. And here’s why.

Our sending church, Red Mountain Community Church in Mesa, AZ, graciously funded the very first KidZ at Heart trip to Kampala, Uganda, where the church had an established relationship with a wonderful pastoral couple and Ugandan church planters, Micah and Grace Rwothumio. (Thirteen years later, Grace is now on the Board of KidZ at Heart!)

In preparing to visit the Rwothumios’ young University Christian Fellowship Church, we asked the children’s ministry leaders what they needed us to bring along.

The response from Uganda was confusing. The volunteers in charge of children’s ministry asked for construction paper.

Knowing that construction paper is perhaps the least expensive supply used in children’s ministry, we asked, “So, you can’t afford construction paper?”

Their reply was fascinating. “Well, no, we can’t afford it. But that’s not why we asked you to bring it. You see, construction paper is not made anywhere in Uganda and it is also not imported. So we have no way of getting it.”

“Then why do you want it?”

“Because the curriculum that a wonderful church from the United States donated to us requires construction paper for preschoolers every week.”

Although we had all sorts of concerns about the dependency that this well-intentioned church had inadvertently created, we brought some supplies along on this first visit. But what we discovered when we arrived was even more alarming.

As with most children’s curricula published in the United States, the materials this church had been given “required” a worksheet and a take home paper for each child each week.

To get these two printed pages for each of their 35 children, including the purchase price, shipping costs, and import duties, this church had to raise $1,000 each quarter! After all of this, the lessons were truly aimed at affluent children living in the United States and had very little relevance for the beloved Ugandan children they were seeking to reach and teach.

Because of this experience (and others like it too numerous to mention here), we made a critical decision early in our founding of KidZ at Heart. We don’t take stuff; instead we equip local church and families to minister to children using what is already readily available within their own reach.

And by not taking stuff, KidZ at Heart avoids the unintended consequence of creating dependency on Westerners.

We would love to speak with you more about the importance of designing your cross-cultural ministries to children in ways that will help, not hurt, those you seek to bless. Or you can come along on a trip designed to do just that and learn in the trenches.