Short-Term Missions and You

Short Term Missions and You

Each Christian is commanded, not invited, to support ministry to all the world. We can go, or pray and give. As we go Jesus never leaves Us (Matt. 28:19-20). Today the division between home and foreign missions is increasingly blurred. This is especially true concerning minorities living in the US. Jonathan Bonk has said that everyone who was ever born was born on the mission field. Each people and culture is up for grabs as a mission field, with EVERY generation.

The issue is, where and how does God want me to serve Him? If He has us, WHERE we serve is a minor issue.

God wants us to be faithful to our place of service: "Martin Luther said, 'If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point." (quoted by Francis Schaeffer, The great evangelical disaster, The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, Vol. 4:333).

Here are testimonies of the impact of short-term mission trips, like one to Uganda, by nurse Earnestine Hollimon.

  1. Why Short Term Missions?
    1. Short term missions is probably the quickest way to light the afterburner on your spiritual life. Because we deliberately make ourselves vulnerable, we learn to trust God more in a completely different culture, because we must. Much like a refugee, we sense far more our need of the Lord on the field than we do at home. God gets our attention and works on us in new ways. He will sometimes enlist us in a secret course of study, such as Humility 101; 201, etc.
    2. "God’s invitation for you to work with Him always leads you to a crisis of belief that requires faith and action. Obey as God sends you where He can best work through you to accomplish His mission." The experience of Hattie Riley.
    3. "You must make major adjustments in your life to join God in what He is doing. Expect God to empower you as you make the life changes that open you to co-labor with God according to His ways."
    4. "You come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you. Expect God to guide you on His mission to reveal Himself and to reconcile a lost world to Himself." (Henry T. Blackaby and Avery T. Willis, Jr., "On Mission with God," Mission Frontiers, Jan.-Feb. 1999, p. 32).
    5. We can learn about our spiritual gifts and otherwise hidden God-given abilities. We may be equipped to do more than we realize in the more comfortable home environment. We might be able to transfer more of our experience than we thought into a different culture. E.g.. Church planting in Bubukwanga.
    6. We often gain new boldness to serve Christ here at home.
    7. We may not have the opportunity or the calling to fulltime mission service.
    8. We learn about our own culture by experiencing another one. We learn about our perception of time, of social distances, of values, of the level of technology, of the spiritual "temperature" of our own culture. We see more clearly both the godliness and the ungodliness. E.g.. Traffic patterns in Uganda, and materialism (paradise on earth) in the West.
    9. We become a catalyst to our own local church to become more involved with the needs of others, as they give and pray and learn.
    10. International travel is relatively easy and affordable. Local churches generally endorse and help raise support.
    11. English is the lingua franca of the world at this moment in history. Over twenty percent of the world’s population speaks it (Joel L. Swerdlow, "Global Culture," National Geographic Vol. 196, No. 2, August 1999, p. 5). If you can do nothing else besides speaking English, you have a missionary vocation.
    12. Your unique contribution of skills and spiritual gifts is needed, probably on many mission fields.
    13. You may have already completed one career, you are financially secure, and you want a fulfilling ministry.
    14. Short-term missions may well show us that God wants us in fulltime missions. My own research found that 40% of African American missionaries that I surveyed were motivated to get into missions due to a short-term trip.
    15. We can act as a liaison between missionaries and the home church.
    16. We can be used of God to lead people to Christ, which has eternal consequences.
    17. With the help of missionaries and/or the national church on the ground to line up our itinerary, we will probably have more opportunities for ministry than in a year in the US.
    18. Financially, our whole trip will probably cost less than support for a full time Christian missionary for the same duration.
    19. Your trip may encourage other lay people to go. Missionaries are good at recruiting missionaries.
    20. When you cannot go personally, you will be more likely to support others going.
    21. We have a unique opportunity to experience the oneness of the church universal.
    22. Because absence often "makes the heart grow fonder," when one spouse leaves for short-term ministry, a new appreciation often develops for each other. Short-term missions is usually PowerAid for marriage.
    23. Short-termers can be a great asset to fulltime missionaries in the field. One missionary said that some who stayed with her family for two years brought "freshness, willingness, innocence, and enthusiasm" to their work, and were "hands and feet" of the missionaries to do necessary tasks not directly related to ministry. They also generate prayer and other support of fulltime missionaries.
    24. Short-term missions often leads to fulltime missions. In my research into African American missions, about 40 percent of missionaries surveyed were motivated to go on the field by short-term mission trips.
    25. Short-term missions can generate new or greater church missions support and enthusiasm in the sending church.
  2. Short-term Trip Objectives:
    1. Learning trips—researching needs, assessing ministry effectiveness
    2. Confirmation trips, to see if we're called to full-time CC ministry
    3. Construction projects. However, sensitivity to the local situation is very important. If high unemployment is prevalent, we do not want to take desperately needed employment opportunities from locals. And we do not want to take away a sense of ownership. On the other hand, Christians from various ethnic groups doing manual labor together can be an extremely powerful message to the nationals.
    4. Overseas study trips
    5. Drama ministry trips
    6. Medical/dental ministry
    7. Donated expertise trips. Consultants in education, medicine, business, agriculture, community health, hydro project, etc. can be a great asset.
    8. Teaching ministry
    9. Trips for spiritual awakening. There is perhaps no better way to intentionally learn to trust God.
    10. Social justice trips
    11. Event-oriented trips (e.g. year 2000 in Rome)
    12. Researching unreached people groups
    13. Intercessory prayer trips, including "prayer mapping"
    14. Church planting trips
    15. Ministry to women
    16. Ministry to orphans and disadvantaged children
    17. Public health--water projects, for example
    18. Missionary children teacher
    19. Exposure trips, to raise missions vision
    20. For encouragement. For example a missionary or oppressed women or children would be encouraged by your coming to be with them.
    21. Unity trips, demonstrating ethnic unity among the parts of the Body of Christ, and so demonstrating the deity of Christ (John 17:21).
  3. Some resources for short-term trips:
    1. Among many websites, check http://www.adventures.org/ for many short-term missions resources.
    2. Check also information on the Uganda trips and Southern Sudan trips, and links to many mission organizations, the majority of which have short-term programs.
    3. Culture Link is a ministry, "enhancing cross-cultural effectiveness through education, equipping and exposure." They offer seminars for short-term trip leaders that are excellent, particularly in team-building training (I attended one, and recommend it). 
    4. Teams Commissioned for Christ International produced in 1999 the "Go Prepared" video training seminar (3 videos) at about $100.00, plus shipping. You can check this resource at http://www.tcci.org (I’ve not seen the videos yet).
    5. Ministering Cross-Culturally (Rev. Ed.), by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter and Marvin K. Mayers (Baker, ISBN: 081056322), is a wonderful, readable, short and insightful tool to prepare teams for such ministry. You may order it through Amazon.com