Cliff Jumping

I’m a big fan of the TV series, “The West Wing.” In fact, I own the whole series and watch it far more than I’d like to admit. In one of my favorite episodes, President Bartlett asks CJ Cregg to “jump off a cliff with him” and replace Leo as his Chief-of-Staff. I watched this episode on Monday and this metaphor has been echoing around my head ever since.

Last fall, I asked my church to “jump off a cliff” with me and support an international youth mission trip to Rwanda. After much prayer and many discussions, the church said yes and so did eleven other people.

We spent the next six months preparing for the trip: Holding trip meetings; Reading and discussing books designed to teach us about Rwandan culture and refugee life and shape our view of short-term missions and how to do them well; Writing support letters and fundraising; And praying – every night at 9:30 pm – for our trip. Finally, tomorrow, we’ll jump off the cliff and begin our two week mission trip to Rwanda.

As tomorrow morning looms, the reality of what we are about to do has begun to set in, causing me to feel unusually overwhelmed. Each time the phone has rung or I’ve received a text asking when someone needs to start taking they’re malaria pills or whether or not it’s acceptable to bring X, my nerves have frayed slightly more.

This has become even more true during conversations with parents. It seems to me that as a young youth worker, taking students on a mission trip never really phased me. Yet, the older I get, the more weighty this responsibility feels. In fact, during one conversation this week with a parent I had the staggering realization that even as our team has been counting down the days until we depart for our mission trip, the parents have been counting down the days until we return home, safe.

This week, these realizations have often made me question, “What on earth am I doing? Am I crazy?”

In some ways, the answer to that question is, yes – I’m a little bit crazy. You have to be to jump off a cliff, take a step of faith, and do anything – including a mission trip to Rwanda. In some ways, this trip is risky. But it’s a well-calculated risk and one that I’m not taking lightly.

I also know that we’re not going into this trip ill-prepared, nor are we going alone.

This reminds me of the Gospel story in which Jesus walks on water and Peter, eager to follow suit, jumps in, takes a few steps, and then panics, crying out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” It’s then, in Matthew 14:31 that Jesus reaches out his hand and catches Peter. It’s only then, with Peter firmly in his grasp, that Jesus says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

So it is with us. On this trip, as we jump off the cliff tomorrow morning, as we free fall throughout the trip, and as we land safely home in two weeks, I know and believe that Jesus will be there, holding my hand, asking, “Why did you doubt?”

I know and believe that God, who has already been moving in and amongst our team throughout our preparation time, will meet us in Rwanda and move us each in incredible ways. In fact, I have a funny feeling that God might just surpass even my wildest dreams and expectations for this trip.

Now all I have to do is jump.


Keith b

Seem to me that you have the Lord in your carry on. You may now proceed to the gate.

Posted by Keith b, almost 12 years ago


You are brave, bold, responsible, prepared, and God is with you on that cliff! Time to let go. Enjoy the adventure! For non-parenting reasons, I am counting the days til you get back! We’ll be here!!

Posted by robin, almost 12 years ago


So glad you jumped!!!!

Posted by Rwandamomma, almost 12 years ago

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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