My parents took us, as children, on our very first missions trip back when I was in grade 5. I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions they ever made. It was one of the greatest gifts they could ever give us: a chance for our eyes to be opened, as a young family, and to be exposed to the need of the world, firsthand.
The closed-country we visited would probably not be on every parent's list of places to take children. It is dangerous, communist, and hostile to believers. To this day, they imprison Christians. Executions are not unheard-of. And yet, the life that was so vibrant in the small, impoverished third-world villages we visited was so clear to me. Seeing the home churches meeting and praising and worshiping together gave me my first understanding of what it meant to surrender all to Christ. The culture shock was like night-and-day. To visit a third-world country as a child and get an early glimpse of the priviledged continent of North America was so important for us. To see the scarcity of water, the war-torn nation still recovering from the damage of the Vietnam War, the filthy animals roaming the dirt roads, the one-room homes, the primitive technology, and the barefoot people was so much for my siblings and I to take in.
They say that the first foreign country one visits is the one that captures the heart and holds it the tightest. This is true in every way, from my experience. While I've traveled to Latin America, South America, and Europe, no country pulls at my heart strings as strongly as this under-represented country in the heart of Southeast Asia.