7 Reasons to go on a Short-Term Mission Trip
Critiques and Criticisms:
- Isn’t it just “Christian tourism”?
- Why don’t you just send the money?
- Why do you have to go somewhere else to do this?
- You won’t be there long enough to build significant relationships
Benefits and Blessings:
1. Local long-term missionaries are encouraged.
Having been both a short-term and long-term missionary, I have found this one happens almost every trip. It can be lonely on the ground sometimes. You can wonder whether you are helping anything at all. Being able to connect with a brother or sister in the faith can be a real encouragement. They can offer a fresh perspective that can break you out of a funk. There really is a supernatural strength when two or three gather in His name. Being able to pray together as fellow “Kingdom sojourners” can offer a ray of sunshine in a seemingly cloudy context.
2. The local economy is boosted.
So you spent months, and maybe years, raising money to come on this trip. The vast majority of the trip has been filled with very intentional service. Down-time has also been built into the experience: opportunities to buy locally made crafts, an afternoon snorkeling, a visit to the local attractions, all the supplies you needed to complete your project were purchased in the community, etc. In each case, local people benefit from your patronage.
It also seems that in most cases, the money raised exceeds all the necessary expenses. This creates the opportunity to leave the excess behind. Often times this translates into a blessing for the projects of the host missionary or for specific, on-going projects that need extra funds to be completed.
3. It offers a perspective you cannot find another way.
You were born into a culture. You were raised in a culture. Your faith gets expressed in a culture… there’s no escaping a cultural context. Your culture is only one culture. There are many more. A short-term mission trip provides an opportunity to experience how faith gets lived out in other cultures. Aspects of the Christian faith that may be important to you may be expressed differently elsewhere. Aspects of the Christian faith that you may not have thought much about may be very prevalent and paramount to others. The Sunday service you had at your home church last week and the Sunday service you go to this Sunday half way around the world will be very different – guaranteed.
4. It gives purpose to your time-off.
Years come and go. Vacation comes and goes. Don’t get me wrong, vacation is great, but I wonder if after a while, even vacation can have that feeling of “same old, same old.” Taking part in a short-term mission trip can recharge your batteries in a whole different way. It can even leverage your vacation to give your recharge time some profound purpose. It is actually possible to come back feeling rested and accomplished.
5. Grow closer to your faith family.
If you have been a part of a church family for any amount of time, then you will know how easy it is to know some people in your faith community really well. You will most likely also know easy it is to see many other peoples’ faces week in and week out and never even learn their names. A mission trip can change all that in no time. That person you smiled at and said a polite, “Hi” to each week is all of a sudden sitting next you on a plane for 5 hours… and then sleeping in the bunk next to you for 7 days… and all the while eating with you, working with you, driving around the countryside with you, and so on. It doesn’t take too long to get very close. Then you come back to your church family… it will never be the same.
6. Your faith community gets anchored in outward focus.
I remember the tail end of one of our church’s trips to Belize. We were back in the U.S. on our way home, having stopped for lunch at a Subway in Portland. We were discussing the amazing trip we had just completed and the wheels were turning… “Ya know, most of that stuff we did in Belize, we could do in our own town.. We have schools that are struggling too… We have untapped space that can be used for community initiatives too… ” and so on. We were coming back with a new lens that said, “It’s important to connect with distant communities for the sake of growth and relationship… it’s also important to connect in the exact same way with our own community.” And from that, a whole new era of community involvement emerged.
7. God can supercharge/leverage your availability.
So you’re going to go on a mission trip. And you think you know what it’s going to look like when you get there. A phrase comes to mind: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” This directly applies to short-term mission trips. I think every trip I’ve ever been on has contained at least one big curve-ball-blessing or opportunity that we could not have predicted. God really does care more about our availability than our ability sometimes. You don’t need a university degree to paint a school… and play soccer with the students at recess… and help them with their homework… etc.
If you haven’t had the privilege of going on a short-term mission trip to anywhere… I encourage you to consider it. Is it not possible that more can be accomplished or experienced than we can ask or imagine??
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