Interview & Story by Dian R. Kidd, UBA Associate Director
Being the youngest of six, with five older sisters, one might think Rickie Bradshaw, III, the son of a preacher, would have learned early to take "no" for an answer. However, when it came to missions and ministry, this was not the case. In spite of being told that he was too young, Rickie initiated, raised money for, and led a mission trip to Mexico at the age of 12.
Rickie, whose father is pastor of First Southwest Baptist Church where Rickie is a member, shares that he had seen his dad go on many mission trips during his younger years. "I always wanted to go with him ever since I was 4 years old," explains Rickie. One evening when Rickie was only 8 years old, he was with his family at a meeting concerning a mission trip to Brazil. He wanted to go also and was very disappointed when he was told that he should be at least 14 to travel on missions trips.
Rickie continued to think about this until he was 12, and then he decided that it was time to take the initiative to change things. After doing some research, he gathered a few friends at church one Sunday and went to the pastor's office. "Dad," Rickie said, "we have something to tell you. I know you are going to say 'no' but I just want to tell you anyway. We want to go on a mission trip to Mexico. I figured out how much it is going to cost us and everything. I know you are going to tell us 'no', though, so don't worry about it." Having shared his dream, but still believing that the adults would think he was too young, he turned around and the group headed out the door.
Pastor Rickie Bradshaw, his father, surprised him. He called the young people back into his office, smiled, and began to ask them questions about their plans. One of the questions was about who would be taking them on the trip. Rickie remembers, "Although my mom didn't know it at the time, I told him [Pastor Bradshaw] that she would be the one taking everyone." Pastor Bradshaw then prayed with the group of young people that God's will would be done in their lives and that whatever God wanted to happen would happen.
Clearly, God wanted that group of young people, led by Rickie, to go to Mexico. When Rickie went to his mother, Dale Bradshaw, and told her that he wanted to lead a mission trip to Mexico and that he needed her to go with them as a sponsor, he got a very positive response. "My mom was excited for me. She said that she knew that I had a calling from God to go on mission. She was excited to do anything that was needed to make the trip happen."
To raise money, the group had garage sales and a car wash; they collected cans and sent letters to their families and friends asking for donations. "Everyone was excited about joining in with me. They were excited that the trip was being led by their friend," reports Rickie.
Finally, plans were completed, funds were raised, sponsors were enlisted, and the group was ready. In mid-summer of 2006, at the initiative of a 12-year-old with a heart for missions, Dale Bradshaw and 2 other women from the church set out to drive a group of 22 youth 360 miles from Houston, TX, to Reynosa, Mexico. The youngest member of the group was the same age Rickie had been, 8 years old, when he learned he would have to wait several years before he could go on a mission trip. It was a dream accomplished.
Rickie is grateful for the adults who helped make the trip possible. "My mom," he says, "was the adult figure behind every decision I made. She was also the one to lead the way while driving to Mexico. The other ladies at the church helped out with driving, keeping us 'little' missionaries in line, and being a support system every step of the way."
The experience was rewarding. "The thing that I found most exciting about the trip," remembers Rickie, "was seeing how God used every single last one of us to bring joy and light to others. At first there were those who thought that the trip was just meant for a fun vacation, but after explaining that the trip was to be used as a tool to spread God's love, their mindset changed. Although the trip was meant for us to share God's love to others, it also became a way to enrich our relationships with God. There was even a time where our whole group, including adults, had a great moment of revival while we were there."
When asked if he would repeat the experience, Rickie responds enthusiastically, "I would most definitely do something like this again. There are so many people in our world who never see the love of Christ. By stepping outside of my comfort zone I am able to see God work in my life and the lives of many others. There has never been a moment where I regretted going on that trip, nor shall there ever be."
Asked about his involvement in missions and ministry since that trip, Rickie shares that they returned to Mexico the following year. Also, in the summer of 2010, he finally made that trip to Brazil. He provided a sign language ministry in Sao Paulo.
Rickie has also participated in numerous community service projects around the greater Houston area including working with the Texas Council for the Blind and the Mamie George Community Center. "This past year," he shares, "I had the great privilege to go to 4 fire departments to donate a letter of appreciation and a basket of cookies in remembrance of those who lost their lives trying to save others on September 11, 2001."
Rickie, now 18 and President of his school's National Honor Society, continues to be active in church and involved in missions and ministry in the community. Currently, in the church, he assists with media, the youth ministry, and "just about anything that I am asked to help out with."
Rickie encourages others to push the boundaries and discover what God can do. "There is no limit to going on missions with and for God. Age and location should never hinder someone's yearning to serve God. Not every missionary is assigned to go overseas. Let God use you where He sees fit. Whether it be '...across the street or around the world, the mission's still the same. Proclaim and live the truth in Jesus' name.'"