Well, I will be heading to Africa in less than 2 weeks to teach at a school of preaching. Our teens just returned from a domestic trip, and 2 more members just returned from other mission trips abroad.
Every time short mission trips are talked about, someone brings up the cost. “we could just send them $3000 and that would be more useful than wasting it on tickets and food.” I admit, at first glance that sound very logical and fiscally responsible…until you talk to the people on the other side of that mission trip. More than once we have asked mission fields what they need most and right next to a steady inflow of funds is presence. They desperately want connection to other Christians. They want to know they aren’t alone in the cause of Christ. They need encouragement, mentoring, comradery, and so many other things that money alone doesn’t buy.
Our teens went to a church where there is only one teen to help with a VBS. He was so pumped to see other Christians his age who loved God. A young family took clothes and ministered to an inner city ministry in Nairobi where most of the people feel forgotten and overlooked even by people of their own culture. To see Americans care for them was incredible. A college student learned a lot about sharing faith on a foreign field in South America with the Let’s Start Talking program. Who know what doors she may investigate next? I will be teaching a group of men to preach and teach in their country and spread the gospel long after I return home.
You see, there is value on short term missions if done correctly, that goes way beyond the dollar amount spent for the trip. Can trips simply be a spiritual vacation? Yes, but you can help shape that in your planning of the mission trips your members go on. Have them look for missions that are focused on truly helping others in physical and spiritual needs, but also realize that like all of us back home, a little time off is warranted too.
If you are planning a trip, maximize the use of your time and money to leave lasting impressions on the people you are dealing with. Challenge your team to grow spiritually and make intentional efforts to share their faith as best they can. In the location you go to look for the opportunities to show people Jesus through whatever activities you may be involved in.
The last time I was in Africa, we ate at the same restaurant almost every day. We had the same two young ladies wait on us every day and built a relationship with them. By the time we left, we had arranged to give them each a Bible and begin a Bible study with the teacher of the school we work with. I am hopeful that I may find two sisters in Christ when I return to Malawi. However it went, these two women learned about Christ and his salvation simply from me engaging them in conversation while eating my meal each day. Isn’t that what we all are supposed to be doing whether in a mission field or at home?
Think those things over next time you wonder about just sending money rather than people when the next mission trip is proposed.
Here are the mission websites our church members were a part of this summer.
Malawi International Bible Institute – http://www.mibisunset.com/
Let’s Start Talking – http://www.lst.org/
Made in the Streets – http://www.madeinthestreets.org/
Escanaba church of Christ – http://www.letthebiblespeak.net/