Tuesday, September 30, 2014

SIX Things That Short-term Teams/Missionaries Do So Well That I Hope They Never Stop!

In the past few weeks I have noticed several articles on short term missions being passed around the church community.  One was titled,  24 Things World Christians Wish North American Short Term Missionaries Would Quit Doing   It was an incredibly important article, especially because the information included was gleaned from National Pastors and it contained some really good insight about the obstacles a national church can face when steamrolled by a short term mission group/ person.

However, because there are some amazing things that short term team/missionaries do around the world I thought I would throw my own hat into the conversation and tell you:

SIX Things That Short-term Teams/Missionaries Do So Well That I Hope They Never Stop!

1.  They arrive as a bundle of energy.  They just spent months in training and getting ready, then days in an airport and 18 hours on a bus, arrived at 3 in the morning and by 7 am they are rearing to go.  They only have a short time, and they don’t want to spend that time sleeping!  This energy, though exhausting for their long term host missionary is also contagious.  I swear I get more done during the week of a short term trip than I do in a month of hard exhausting work.

2. They LOVE everything!  Everything they see is so new to them that they fall in love immediately with a culture, a city, a people, that after many years I have come to take for granted.  “Look at that hotel with all all the white sheets hanging on the roof!”  “There is a cow!  In the Park!”  “Ohhhhhhh, look at that precious baby on that lady’s back!”  “That kid just said hello to me!”  “Look at the Mountains!”  “Look at all the holes in the road!”  Everything is beautiful to a short termer.  They haven’t fallen into any holes yet.  Nothing has become mundane.  That newness, that attitude of beauty reminds everyone around them how blessed we are to be living in such a beautiful and exciting place.

3.  They bring resources.  This is often on a list of negatives, and it is true that short termers often arrive and think they can solve everything by throwing money at it (which is not only a false conclusion, it is also a damaging attitude).  But, let’s be honest.  Mission fields are greatly lacking in many resources that short termers are generously willing to share.  They bring suitcases of craft supplies, bi-lingual Bibles, and candies from our home country.  All things that we can’t get here and which we ration out for the next several years.  Many also begin to monthly support our ministries, and frankly, this is one of the BEST ways that a mission group can connect with a ministry.  Think about it- a person who arrives and works alongside a missionary for a weeks or months really knows that missionary's heart.  They have also seen the needs first hand.  They have already invested financially into our work by just coming and now they have invested emotionally and spiritually as well.  The financial resource that they can offer a ministry is not something that should be rejected off hand but rather funneled appropriately and then appreciated greatly!

4.  They have all kinds of new ideas!  Oh, how we often bemoan the fact that in ten minutes every person on a mission trip will have all the answers to every government problem, every social ill, and every financial need.  To be honest, for me, it is the hardest thing to manage in short term missions.  However, after a few years of experience I have learned a valuable lesson.  That lesson is called humility.  Even after years on the field I do not know everything and my eyes and mind have become tired, and dare I say, even lazy.  These new eyes have can take a fresh look at old problems and when they begin to process them they OFTEN have some pretty good solutions.

With that said, Can I please encourage mission teams to hold back for a while.  Another important lesson I have learned is:  Stop.  Look.  Listen.  Then do it again.  Your fresh and awesome ideas will be better handled after you have built a relationship with the missionary or national pastor you are working with.  That said, when I look at some of the awesome things that have happened in my ministry over the years, in large part the ideas were born from the fresh look of a short term missionary!

5. They bring love.  Love for their Saviour, love for our people group, and love for us.  Sometimes, we, and our national pastors, and our national people group, and our kids could just use a big ol’ hug.  Short termers are amazing at offering a tremendous amount of love.  In that love I have found encouragement to last months.  They love how I boil water to wash my dishes, they love that I can speak another language, they love that I send my kids off for a thirty minute walk to school.  They love that I have so many national friends.  They love my Bible studies and my coffee shop.  They are bubbling over with love and it’s an especially refreshing attitude to be immersed in for a week.

6.  They create a frenzy of response and interest.  People love new things and a group of outsiders are just that.  They are a switch from the norm and because of that, they can create an atmosphere of intensity which can be used to create long term interest in an old established ministry.  They bring with them revived interest and excitement.

For those of you who are preparing to arrive on a field short term, please know that you can do a lot of good.  GOD can do amazing things IN you and THROUGH you.  Be prepared to have those "good things" look far different than what you think they look like.  Be prepared to be disappointed, hurt, exhausted, emotionally and spiritually challenged.  Be prepared to be used.

Plan well.  

Work with and respect the national church and ministries you will be working with.  
Stop.  Look.  Listen.  And then do it again.  
Connect prayerfully and financially with the ministries and missionaries you will work with.  
Make your connection a permanent one, not a temporary, fly-by-night emotional one.

If a short term mission trip to Loja, Ecuador is something you think would be AWESOME (and it would be!) contact me at givepraygo@gmail.com and we can start conversing about how to make it happen!

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