Short-term missions trips require a lot of work, both on the part of the organizing church leadership as well as the receiving missionary.
On the U.S. church’s side, there is a lot of paperwork (passports, parental release forms, liability, health insurance, tourist visas) that necessitates timely administration. With every team there are team dynamics. Who should be paired up with whom on trip housing? What are any unique dietary and health concerns of each member? Finances are a big issue. How can we pay for this trip? What do we do with those who haven’t been able to raise their total amount? How much can the church contribute to the trip? Then, of course, is the actual preparation for ministry to be done on the field. Do we need to learn Spanish for our songs? What about our skit? Testimonies? Craft times and the respective materials needed? And in the case of teams that come down to us…how can we bring down all this stuff that Rod and Mayra need brought down?
On the receiving side, there are a multitude of details that need to be planned. Logistics include transport for 20 people (or more) plus luggage, housing in national and missionary homes and feeding a group three times a day. Often, resources for the team’s activities need to be acquired weeks ahead (wheelchairs, for example). Coordination with the national church, other national ministries (like orphanages and rehab centers) and national leadership (how can we best use the energy and resources that visitors bring?) is essential, and not always easy.
We are convinced that short-term teams can be effective and further the work of the national church, if they work side-by-side with the national church, and realize that short-term groups are not coming into a spiritual or cultural vacuum. How would a church from the U.S. feel if group from another country (think of one) showed up and wanted to show them how to “do church?” That would probably not go over very well! So a group comes to both teach and learn. It probably takes more humility, actually, to receive than to give. Often times, when we give we are in control. But when we receive, we must be humble. So any short-term missions experience needs to be open to both. Invariably a response we here often when groups return to the U.S. is that they feel like they have received more than they have given. That is God’s way. His economy.
The energy and enthusiasm that a short-term missions group brings is always a tremendous encouragement to us. We are always amazed at how God continues to work in both countries, and the testimonies of our visitors challenge and comfort us. When the Son of Man comes, will faith be found on the earth? Yes, we think He will. Faith is still strong…on both sides of the border.
Short-term missions trips require a lot of work, both on the part of the organizing church leadership as well as the receiving missionary. Is it worth it? Yes, it is.
Below…a group runs on bottled water and Coke! Buying food to feed a tribe. Last picture…Kim Austin getting Hope Community ready to come down in two days!