I was asked last month to do a write up for the UWM blog regarding my thoughts and views of short term mission work. As many of you know Lara and I cut our teeth in missions serving churches through short term mission trips. We had great experiences, learned a lot, and gained a new heart for the world through these years. Unfortunately, not everyones experience with short term mission teams is as good as ours was. Short term missions can too often be disruptive, inconsistent, and harmful…unless they are done with a few long term goals and thoughts in mind. Here is our my story…
For many of us we we hear someone say “short-term” missions or a missions trip, and we associate a negative feeling or thought with those phrases. We stereotype what they look like and the impact they could have on the “real” work of missions. We ask questions like: How helpful could this really be? What could short-term trips really accomplish in just a small period of time? Are they going to be helping or will they just hurt the work we are doing? If we are really honest with ourselves, we don’t see a great deal of value or need for short-term missions.
What if this way of thinking may not be all there is to short-term missions? What value can we find in short-term work, if any? I have one thought about the benefit of short-term missions.
I could share with you many stories, and some of them would be your story, that long-term missionaries have told me about how God led them into missions. For many missionaries it started with them first participating in a short-term trip. Many of us have committed to give our life to missions because of a short-term mission trip. Many of us realized the call of God on our lives when we stepped out of our comfort zones and went on a trip to serve in another country for two weeks. Many of us experienced how God could use us and wanted to use us. Many of us received a passion for a specific place, people group, or type of ministry because we said yes to going on a short-term mission trip.
For me personally, I look back and remember many of the short-term mission trips that I took as a teenager and younger adult. They were highly instrumental in shaping who I am today as a man, minister, and follower of Christ. I often think back to a specific short-term mission trip that I took 12 years ago when I clearly heard the call of God on my life to pursue Him and to live intentionally/missionally. I was sitting in a tent in the middle of the Panamanian jungle when I believe I heard the voice of God call to me. I was out of my comfort zone, working with local pastors, experiencing a different culture and language when I was awakened to the possibility that God not only could use me but wanted to use me to reach the nations with His Good News.
Because of that trip my family and I committed our lives to a missional way of living, whether it was in our neighborhood, our school, our church, and/or around the world.
I understand that short-term missions – if not done correctly or are not closely tied to the long-term goals – can do more harm than good. But, I also believe that they can be a tool that helps fuel the fire of missions around the world! I have seen and experienced how God can use short- term missions as an on-ramp to a life of leading others in a growing relationship with Jesus while loving and serving them well.
Who is God calling today who will only encounter His purpose for their life through the experience of going on a short-term missions trip? Many, many more Kingdom workers, I believe!
By: Spanky Rouse, Mobilizer & Coach – Africa & Asia