It seems here lately and especially this time of year, short-term mission teams get a lot of flack. And now with sites like barbiesavior.com it has become a more heated debate.
It is true that short-term mission trips can do more harm than good. It is true that many go on short term mission trips for the wrong reasons, and that they post pictures that call for people to look at them.
But can I just say that if it were not for short-term mission trips, I would not be serving long-term now.
My first short-term trip was to French Guiana, South America. I had not clue where this place was, I had no idea of the French creole spoken here or really how I was going to help. I’m not sure my intentions for going where all correct, and I know that for the long-term missionaries we were working with. We were probably a little bit more trouble than we were worth.
But at the end of that trip, I knew God was calling me for more.
That same year at Christmas, I joined up with a group of girls from all over the States and headed to China for three weeks. This was a bit more intense than a one week trip, but none the less it was another short-term trip. I taught English, took pictures, and sought to tell anyone who would listen about Jesus. I came home believing we had made a difference, but I know now that it is the lady we worked with who had been there more than 8 years who was really making the difference.
Yet, once again, this only fueled my desire to serve the Lord cross culturally.
God used both experiences to bring me to a point where I was ready to say yes to long-term. Yes, to Korea, and now yes, to Central Asia.
This past year, we had an amazing short-term team visit us here, and they did an amazing job serving the people here. Most of these had never been out of the USA, and it was an amazing chance for them to see the world, to see the needs, and for God to do a work like He did in mine in the hearts of some who came.
The truth is without short-term mission trips, there would be little to no long-term missionaries.
Both are important, both are needed.
So before, we are too hard on these short-term groups. Let’s remember that it is through these trips that God calls out those who will serve Him long-term.
True, short-term teams can cause trouble, they can do damage, and they can be difficult for the long-term people. But I think the good they do far outweighs the bad. And I know the good God does in their hearts to change them is nothing that can be measured.
I always thought before going to the mission field about how God would use me to change nations and people for His glory. But, just to add in a bit more honesty. God used Korea and is using Central Asia now to make me more like Him, probably far more than He used me to change them.
And He does this with the short-term travelers as well. For the first time, they catch a glimpse of the world, of the need, and of God’s heart for the lost. Once they see this, they are never the same.
These short-term teams help the churches back home know what the long-term workers are doing. They understand better than anyone else back home, how much the long term workers need prayer. And after seeing the day-to-day of what those serving long term deal with, they can empathize and encourage like no one else.
So my advise to everyone who has never been on a short-term trip. Go! Take the opportunity given and allow God to use your trip to change you, to grow you, and maybe even to call you to more.
But I would also advise you to be sensitive to the needs of the people. Be sensitive about posting photos that glamorize what you’re doing. Be quick to listen to the advise of those who live and serve there long-term. Go with a serving heart, go with a teachable spirit, but go.
And I promise that when you return, you will no longer see the world in the same way. You will no longer see the refugees and foreigners in your home town the same. God can and will use this short-term trip to change those you encounter, but even more so to change you.