Ask A Pastor
Q) How beneficial are these expensive short-term mission trips?
A) Sitting at a table with a new friend in a local restaurant back in 1994, my excitement grew with every word. He was a new member of my congregation who was also making trips 2-3 times a year doing missions work in Northeast Russia. My only response to hearing of his stories was, “Next trip, I want to go!” Go I did! While there, something took root in my heart. I saw major cities with only a handful of churches, most being very unhealthy, in comparison to a church on every block in my small town in southern Georgia. I met believers who were longing for churches to be planted in their cities. I met pastors who desperately needed theological and biblical training. I also saw a broken world where people suffered hopelessness materially and spiritually.
That was the first of three short-term trips to this part of the world before I made the decision to move my family of six to Hungary to fulfill the calling that God was now laying on my life. I joke and say that I became a missionary because of one too many short-term mission trips. In some ways this is true, and those ways illustrate the true value of short-term missions.
Short-term missions can be misused in several ways. Often these trips are not much more than church-paid exotic vacations to remote parts of the world. Also, our American efficiency finds value only in actual mission work like evangelism or church construction projects. To be honest, there is little effective ministry that a team of well-intentioned but inexperienced Americans can do when they do not know the local language or culture. It would be so much more economically efficient just to send the money.
So then, why go? There are several reasons. The first is relationships. Church folks stateside do much to support missions through their giving and prayers, but that involvement is deeper when they really know the people they support. When a relationship is developed, the financial support and the prayer support are more consistent and significant. Those relationships are enhanced by being there with the missionaries.
The second reason is in vision. For me, a deep burden grew for the people of post-communist Europe by going there and tasting life as they knew it. It is far different being there from just reading a book or seeing pictures. There you talk to people. You smell the air. You feel the hardness of life. That experience helps develop a vision for God’s work of missions and their potential role in that work.
Thirdly, one can see and be encouraged by a bigger picture of God’s work. I loved worshipping with brothers and sisters in these strange lands, singing many familiar songs in a foreign language. I was greatly encouraged to see that God’s Kingdom and His church were far greater in number and variety than my limited experience.
Finally, when church members gain that kind of perspective, vision, and encouragement, it will always be good for their local church. So, get out there and taste what God is doing.
Please pray for Ron as he returns to Hungary March 9 through 19.