Google “short term mission trips” and you will have no shortage of offers and opportunities. They are big business, if I can put it in such quintessential American terminology. When it comes to missions trips you can go almost anywhere and do almost anything. You can dig ditches in Africa to provide water, you can help build a house for a pastor in Haiti, you can provide healthcare in the mountains of South America and it goes on. Any of these are good opportunities but they may or may not be the most strategic opportunities. Let me explain.
There are four potential earthly benefactors when it comes to mission trips; those who go, those on the STMT (short-term mission trip) visit, the church that is visited, and the church back home. By strategic, I mean a trip that strives to have the most impact on all four.
Let me give an obvious caveat at this point, it is nearly impossible to measure the impact of a mission trip. Most results are largely invisible to the human eye; so stating with utmost confidence whether one trip is more effective than another is assuming a bit much. What is said below does not seek to prove what we do is better but rather explain why we do what we do through the four potential benefactors.
First, we see STMT (Short term mission trip) as one step in a long-range view. This true for all for potential benefactors mentioned above.
For personal discipleship of those who go this is but one step on their journey of experiencing their faith. For Erik Kosiorek who went on a STMT to Brazil in 2008, it was one step in God’s process of calling him to full-time missions. This is not usually the case for most, but in Erik’s case it was an important step. For most, these trips provide an opportunity for God to work in their lives by expanding their vision for Him and His work around the world.
For the missionary we are visiting our presence means more than any ministry we can do here. The fact that we show commitment and care by sacrificing to be with them says; “We are with you for the long haul.” Missionaries need that! Colossians 4:7-9 is an excellent example of this, as Paul sends out a missions team to the church at Colosse. Of the team, he stated, “All my state shall Tychicus declare unto you, who is a beloved brother, and a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord: Whom I have sent unto you, for the same purpose that he might know your estate and comfort your hearts; With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They shall make known unto you all things which are done here.” – Col 4:7-9. In the words of our missionary partner Andrew Comings in Brazil, “missions teams refresh the leadership.”
For the church we visit it is an encouragement to see like-minded believers from another part of the world. Our presence lets them know they are prayed for, thought of and not alone. Often times the churches we visit are in an incredible minority in their city. A visit from a group like ours is a proverbial shot in the arm to them. That is not to communicate they need us or we are better in any way but that we are partners striving to be faithful along with them.
The church that sends us is enriched by the process of praying for us and learning about a foreign ministry through our being here. Long term, the experiences brought back by the team bring understanding and context of the larger body of Christ worldwide.
Tomorrow I’ll post part 2: the centrality of the local church in our approach to mission trips. Here are a few more pics from our trip: