James Cook is likely to have a life-altering experience this summer as he embarks on a mission trip to Belize, his first time out of the country and away from his peers.
"I'm looking forward to having a real good time," said the 12-year-old son of Woody Cook, of Evans, and Tracie Sadler, of Aiken. "I'm excited about meeting other people, too."
A member of West Town Community Church in Evans, James will participate in the five-week trip with Teen Missions International this month. He initially will spend two weeks in training at Cocoa Beach, Fla., living in a tent, bathing and washing his clothes in buckets and running obstacle courses. He will take classes on attitude, tithing and basic photography, among others. James also will learn how to construct a cabin from the ground up.
A total of 23 youngsters from the United States and Canada will make up the preteen team. James will be one of two kids from Georgia to participate in the Belize trip. He will meet his fellow teammates and leaders for the first time when he arrives at boot camp.
While in Belize, James will help construct and paint cabins that will house the future Bible, Missionary and Work Training Center students. He also will participate in a youth ministry program.
James Cook will be going on his 26th mission trip with his father, Woody Cook, through their church, West Town Community Church. James also is an avid skateboard fan.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
The team will interact with the residents and see exotic birds and fish native to the area. They also will swim in a lagoon and visit the Mayan ruins at Altun Ha. The group will take a snorkeling trip to San Pedro Island, home of the second-largest coral reef in the world.
Mr. Cook said he was interested in finding a good Christian camp for his son three years ago. James, a rising seventh-grader at Evans Middle School, was too young to participate in the overseas mission program, but he went to Cocoa Beach and made bracelets for the departing group as part of the Peanut Team, which consisted of children ages 7 to 9.
"I told him to think about this year's camp and pray about it. After a week, he said he definitely wanted to go," Mr. Cook said.
"I guess the church, in some senses, is his family," said Rod Addison, the pastor of West Town Community Church. "That's a big part of his life. It's a safe place where he has become influenced in his Christian values."
Addison said he expects two things to come of James' mission trip.
"One, I think he will have a greater appreciation for America and all the blessings we have," Addison said. "And, I think he'll mature because of his contributions to the building projects and the ministry activities with children.
"You can't give of yourself without planting the seed of a lifetime of service. He'll be investing in things bigger than himself."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.