The Importance of Short-Term Mission Trips

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I just got back from a short-term mission trip to Ecuador. Like most churches, we seem to take a couple trips a year to various parts of the world. Our trips range from construction and building projects, to evangelism and training opportunities.

Of course, taking a short-term mission trip is not easy or always financially viable. Some have argued that instead of going on these trips, we should just send resources or money. But there’s a beauty in going. Short-term mission trips are important for several reasons.

I’m not sure when I first heard it, but a few years ago I started hearing arguments against going on short-term mission trips. The arguments were vast and varied. Some decried that we do more harm than good by going.

Some said a short trip like that doesn’t do anything for the people. Instead, we should send funds or resources.

I heard those arguments and agreed to an extent. It’s hard not to consider the damaging effects of a trip like this (or at least greatly questions the motives) when we scour instagram and see loads of selfies and ridiculous hashtags strewn about in third world countries.

But short-term missions actually do good. Both for the people who receive us, and for those who go.

For starters, partnerships are Biblical.

The apostle Paul had them with various churches. Missions always operated this way–it was about being together, being connected, even though distance separated us.

We’re the same family, although separated by thousands of miles, doing ministry and sharing life together. Short term missions remind us of what it means to give and receive, to accept and to share.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed first hand the power and influence of these trips in my own life. Relationships have been formed, partnerships forged, and incredible kingdom work has transpired. All of these would be naught without the yearly short-term trips.

The church, after all, is more than just one local congregation pitted against another. It’s bigger than that. It’s bigger than us.

Acts describes the church as a world-wide movement. A movement so grandiose that it spans every inch of this globe we call home. Our job, as members of this church, is to join the movement in any way we can.

We build for the kingdom in our neighborhoods and cities, but also across the globe.

There’s a lot that we can give the churches we partner with…but there’s also a lot we can receive.

We are sharing Christ’s love, capturing a vision of the Kingdom of God, and learning about our own gifts and wiring for ministry.

We learn that our world is both bigger and smaller than we imagined.

We learn to see.

We learn to hear.

We learn to connect.

We learn to set aside our own cultural biases.

When I look at what’s happened in Ecuador over the years, it’s pretty incredible. Now, we didn’t bring Jesus to this part of the world. He was already there and had been there for a long time.

What we did do, though, was become partners in ministry. A number of churches have partnered over the years in Ecuador, and together, TOGETHER, we have witnessed the amazing things God has done.

On this past trip, we did a little construction. A group from Chile built a new roof for a youth building that will be used to house youth for who knows how many years. Our group helped finish a cement floor for the same building. I’m told another group will paint the walls and help design the interior space.

A roof, a floor, and four walls.

That youth building was a visible illustration of what the church is. We come together as one to work for the kingdom. All of us have roles to fill and we do so together for the good of the mission.

Our friends in Ecuador showed us how to mix and pour cement and we followed their lead. The building came together.

One day, students will gather in this building. The gospel will be preached and shared here. Leaders will be groomed in this space. The church will be built.

We prayed over the floor as we finished the work, just like the roof was prayed over and just like the walls will be prayed over too. It gives me chills to think about the power of that building–just knowing how many hands it took to make the thing come together, trusting in God to use it for big things.

More importantly than our construction or building projects, I think about the relationships that exist. We have family now in other parts of the world. When you can return to a place over and over again, i’s not about a quick fix or even ‘feeling good’ about serving. It’s about the people.

We are known by our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. And we know them. Sure, there might be a language barrier or two for a few of us, but we’ve been praying and sharing and living life together now for years. We know one another pretty well at this point.

When our friends come to the states to fundraise and share about the ministry, we know what they’re talking about. We’ve seen it and experienced it firsthand. Likewise, when we go to the country we participate in the work we know is needed.

Again, together we share in the ministry. We are not strangers, but partners.

When Jesus gives his followers this grand world-wide vision in Acts, he does so with a pattern, with a certain beat to live by.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Witnesses are those who bear testimony to what has happened.  It’s a calling for local, nationwide, and international missions.

My friend, Geovanni, told me a couple days ago that there are three ways one can be a missionary.

The first option is to go. We pack our bags and head off to new place.

The second option is we can can send. We give our money and resources towards missions efforts around the world.

And the third option is we can pray. No matter where we are, we can partner in praying for missions.

He smiled at us and said that everyone can do the third way. We can all pray.

But truthfully…

We can probably do the other two as well.

Let’s be sure to pray for our ministry partners across the world. Let’s also do our part to send money and resources, knowing that it belongs to God and that He’ll use it for His purposes. But let’s also choose to go.

Maybe you’re not called to uproot your life and move across the globe.

Maybe you’re not called to be a full-time missionary.

But perhaps we’re called to go in whatever ways we can, knowing that a trip does something for those who receive us, and also for us who go.

We’re going to continue to go on short-term mission trips because we see the value of partnerships in the gospel. We know it’s not always about what we bring or what we accomplish.

What matters, though, is remaining faithful to God and obedient to His directions.

God will surprise us in big ways when we are faithful to Him.

After all, He’s the one who told us to go into all the world, sharing the message, building for the Kingdom, and learning that His family covers every inch of the globe.

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