When a typical family plans their vacation, some of the first items that make it to the must-have list are pools and waterslides, Disney princesses and comfy resort beds. But the Madding family, who attend Pennsylvania Conference’s Kenhorst Boulevard church in Reading, is anything but typical. Their list of vacation must-haves is a community in need, people who yearn to know Jesus and a local family willing to take them in.
“Mission work is in our blood. It is something we have always done as a couple, so we knew that when we had children, we wanted to make it a part of their life as well,” recalls Andrea about the decision she and Tim made early in their marriage. So, when their son, Ethan, turned 10, they decided it was time to start their tradition of service-focused family vacations. Ethan remembers when his parents first told him about the mission trip vacation idea: “At first I was shocked, but then excited about it!” After experiencing two of these vacations, he says they are well worth it.
Tim and Andrea wanted to make sure that Ethan’s first mission trip experience was positive, so they merged it with a cruise. It was not a mission trip-specific cruise but included stops in towns they had served as a couple. With a little extra planning, Tim and Andrea lined up mission opportunities at each port stop. Their main goal: to have Ethan involved as much as possible.
The first sign of the positive impact they were making came when they returned from one of their stops. As the Madding family joined other cruise patrons around a table for dinner, talk turned to what everyone had done during the last port stop. While some talked of exciting tourist attractions or exotic animal sightings, young Ethan shocked the strangers by excitedly reporting that his family “cleaned windows” at one stop and that he preached his first sermonette at another. It thrilled their fellow travelers to hear of the Madding’s unique vacation, and they continued to ask for updates on their latest mission adventures. It became clear that the Madding’s mission impact went beyond their work at each port.
For their latest mission trip vacation this year, the Maddings hosted a 10-day evangelistic series in the Dominican Republic. While Andrea, a physical therapist, gave health lectures during the day, Tim, who is the director of Leadership and Spiritual Growth at the Pennsylvania Conference, preached each evening. Again, they involved Ethan as much as they could, this time giving him the responsibility of preaching the main sermon on both Sabbath mornings and assisting Tim with the equipment each night. To add to their experience, they fully immersed themselves in the culture. For 10 days, they lived with the locals and ate their food. This helped them relate to the people on a different level, the family says.
At the end of their stay, the Madding family was able to witness 16 baptisms as a result of their evangelism, with 20 more people starting Bible studies in preparation for baptism. This type of mission trip really instilled in their family that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is a worldwide denomination, says Tim.
But to Tim and Andrea, the biggest impact from these trips can be felt in their home. The vacations have sparked in Ethan, who is homeschooled, a love for ministry. He prepared and preached his first full-length sermons in the Dominican Republic, and since returning, has already volunteered to preach at local churches.
Tim remembers, “After Ethan’s second sermon during our trip, we were putting away the equipment from the meeting, and I was telling Ethan how sometimes we can prepare our sermons, but really, when it’s time to speak, sometimes the Holy Spirit will take over and just speak through us. I remember Ethan turning to me and saying, ‘Dad, before I preached this sermon, I didn’t feel fully prepared, but when I started preaching, that’s exactly how I felt, like the Holy Spirit took over and preached through me.’”
For Tim, that made all the hard work worth it. “You cannot imagine what a father feels when he hears something like that. That’s why we do this,” he says.
This story original appeared in the December 2013 issue of Visitor Magazine.