What I Haven't Told You
about Short-Term Missions….
People aren't always a fan of short-term missions (10-16 day trips). People relate that time-frame to a vacation, maybe even a vacation with a purpose. But why? Often times, the thoughts go something like this, “what can you do in a foreign nation in 10 days that the locals can't do? Furthermore, what's up with all the nice food pics and all the fun selfies? Shouldn't you be without Wi-Fi, sleeping on dirt floors, and eating porridge?”
Well, here's what I haven't told you…….
1. Yes, you will see nice food pictures. Here's why:
Our teams health is of utmost importance. We don't want teams eating from any kitchen, made with unfiltered water, and served on anything.
Our hosts are well aware that we aren't used to their everyday bacteria and we need to eat food and drink water that will not make us sick, i.e. hinder the mission and the rest of the team. So we sometimes have to go to the mall or restaurants to eat.
However, there are times we eat what we are served - maybe porridge, maybe cheesy quinoa - and that doesn't make for an attractive IG post so you most likely won't see those dishes. (I did post cheesy quinoa - see Peru highlights on IG.) 😁
2. Fun Selfies
Taking selfies (or us-ies) has become a way of showing you what we are doing and how we are doing without asking anyone to take the picture for us. It's only a moment in time, but they say “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Be careful about writing your own narrative for those selfies. (Tip for myself also.)
3. “Wi-Fi? Get to work already!”
Wi-Fi is available most anywhere now. Rarely are we without it. Parks, markets, malls, churches, hotels, cafes, etc. all offer Wi-Fi.
Why are we on it? Because there are times where we are waiting on the next thing or we have time before bed or when we wake up.
I sometimes wish it wasn't as easily accessible as it is because of the distraction from conversation and it's just another door for the enemy to discreetly attack someone.
4. Sleeping on dirt floors? In a village?
Largely the focus of global missions is to evangelize in the cities.
You may ask “Why? Isn't the people in the most rural areas the ones who need someone to bring the gospel to them?” The answer is yes, they do need it. But isn't it better for natives, living in the cities, to take it back to their own people? They know the language and the culture. Villagers tend to flock to the cities for jobs.
It's more likely the people living in the city speak some English and even more likely that we will have a few translators among us in the city.
Why should we go where we aren't understood and in turn may not understand them?
In the city, to keep the team safe as possible, we stay where the host church tells us to. Usually a hotel or guest house. Sorry - no dirt floors. (Maybe sleep on bamboo flooring in Thailand! Maybe sleep on a box spring! Maybe sleep on a bed that has bugs crawling on it! It's not always comfortable!)
5. What can we do in 10-16 days they can't do?
Since I've led teams and began teaching about serving cross-culturally, I've asked a few pastors whom we serve similar questions. The questions I've asked were “Why do you want teams to come serve?” and “Are the teams a burden?”
What you may not realize is the host has to add to their own workload and ensure our team is safe, transported to where we need to be, plan what we will do and who of their own team will be on-site to assist, etc. It's a lot of work for the host! So if we aren't helping them in a big way, why would they want us there?
The response I've gotten from three of the pastors we serve is this:
Pastor 1: Jesus could've sent money, but he didn't. He WENT. We want warm bodies here - not money.
Imagine how short the New Testament would be if no one “went” and made relationships.
We can have more of a long-lasting impact on our team, the servants of the local church, and the people we encounter if we are there in person, building long-term relationships.
Pastor 2: The people in the villages and non-believers see you foreigners who are Christians and they think “Oh, I too can be a Christian. It’s not just a certain group of people.”
Some of the people in the villages may have never seen a white person or someone from America. They may not know that people around the globe follow Jesus. So for us to be there, could give them a whole new perspective which could transform their belief system. Let me clarify that last statement - “us” is not the savior, i.e. I know “WE” are not the “source”……I’m just trying to bring an understanding of how local communities sometimes see “foreigners” from what I’m hearing.
I asked another Pastor (3) if our serving with his church was a burden.
He said: “Yes, when we received a call within the first couple of years of the church plant saying, ‘we are sending a team these dates’……..we had to scramble to find something for them to do and decide who on our team would be with them.” He did follow it up saying that hasn't been the case the last few years.
I replied, “this makes me cringe!” Never do we want to send a team on our terms. We want to send a team on the host church’s terms - when they need us, not when is convenient for our team leaders/team members.
At the end of the day, we’ve learned that the long-term missionaries and local pastors are encouraged by our time spent with them and their teams. It may seem like a short-term trip but ultimately, it's a long-term relationship. We strive to take teams that will cultivate, not destroy, those relationships AND make new ones.
Going on a mission trip is a commitment, not a date. There is no flirting; you must be all in to serve wholeheartedly while being challenged and uncomfortable.
“Those who know, do. Those who understand, teach.” - Aristotle
I just returned from my 7th mission trip. We went to Bangkok and Mae Sot to serve alongside two churches we’ve been partnered with for 10+ years. God prepared me to LEARN on this trip. Why am I still learning? Because the ways of the world are constantly changing and my relationship with God continues to grow. Those who are sent should always go with the demeanor of a student first; no matter how many times they’ve gone on a mission, their age, titles, accomplishments, or accoutrements.😉 Go to learn, then do while learning, then teach.