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Local family spans the globe to do mission work

Wadsworth-02/17/13 Sun./Brooks Residence Bob Brooks Beach Park holds his daughters hMadeline Brooks 15 as Brooks Family talks about missionary work

Wadsworth-02/17/13, Sun./Brooks Residence Bob Brooks, of Beach Park holds his daughters hand Madeline Brooks, 15, as the Brooks Family talks about missionary work Sunday. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 19, 2013 6:38AM

Three generations of the Brooks family continue the tradition of serving others through mission trips.

The Brooks family patriarch and matriarch Jim and Jan Brooks of Wadsworth said they learned about volunteering from their late parents and now see their teenage grandchildren doing the same.

Jim and Jan have four children, all of whom are married and have children of their own. Last summer, the Brooks family went on a total of 11 mission trips. Many family members are in the midst of planning their next mission.

“It’s a joy and a pleasure to see your family following in the right steps,” Jim said.

His first mission trip was to Guatemala as a young man. He has also traveled to the Philippines and West Virginia, helping with building projects and sharing his Christian faith.

One of his sons, Bob Brooks, a contractor of Beach Park, leads a group of at least 50 men (including his father) to an impoverished area of West Virginia. Bob’s son Jackson Brooks, 17, also goes on the West Virginia trip. Another of Jim’s sons, Chris Brooks, a physical education teacher at North Prairie Junior High in Winthrop Harbor, and his son Tyler Brooks, 18, also travel on the West Virginia mission trip.

“I look forward to the next trip,” Chris said.

He also said he has seen many men from the trip come back home inspired to volunteer in their own communities when they return.

The men-only semi-annual West Virginia trip concentrates on construction-related service for the same community.

“They look forward to us showing up there,” Bob said.

The trips have taught his son Jackson to be more accepting of other people.

“I also enjoy being able to serve God by serving others, “ Jackson said.

Jackson’s sister Madeline, 15, went on her first mission trip last summer, helping with community projects in Zion.

Madeline’s cousin Tyler Brooks, 18, (son of Chris) is planning a two-month mission trip to China this summer in which he would minister to believers and teach English. He has gone to Mexico and Haiti and taught vacation Bible school there.

“Haiti was a totally different world ... even two years after the earthquake, there was extreme poverty. You could really just feel the sorrow there,” Tyler said.

His mother, Mary, was also on the trip to Haiti with some fellow teachers.

She teaches second grade at Spaulding School in Gurnee and helped come up with teaching seminars for Haiti teachers. Many Haitian teachers have no formal education themselves and operate in buildings without electricity.

“It was so inspiring, coming from a district with everything to a school with nothing ... we offered encouragement and hope,” Mary said.

Her brother and sister-in-law, Ted and Gretchen Brooks of Gurnee, are going to Haiti next month to plan this summer’s project.

Ted and Gretchen’s sons Connor, 13, and Nick, 22, have also been on some mission trips. Connor has been to Mexico and Nick to Nicaragua on a medical mission trip.

“We’re not going with a Superman complex. We go as Clark Kent so we can relate to people. We definitely believe we get more out of the trip than the people we serve,” Ted said.

All the Brooks family members fund their mission trips themselves by fund-raising, soliciting contributions and paying out of pocket.

“I’m the cheerleader of the group. When I listen to all (my children and grandchildren share about their missions), I don’t know you can ask for anything else,” Jan said.

Her fourth child, Heather Brooks Welsch, is married and living in Nebraska with three sons.

Heater and her husband were not available to share about their Brazil mission work in person when the rest of the family did.

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