Why should anyone go on a short-term mission trip?
This is a question that I’ve heard in one form or another. People often imply that a short-term mission trip has little impact on those being served. And they typically assume that a short-term mission trip has minimal impact on those serving other than to make them feel good about themselves for a few weeks.
I’d like to say that this doesn’t have to be the case. My recent experience is proof that short-term mission trips can have a huge impact.
Let me explain.
Missions has surrounded me in one form or another since I was a young child. In elementary school, my parents hosted a missionary in our home for a few months. In junior high, I remember my dad traveling to Haiti for a short-term missions trip with other members of our church. When I got to high school, I attended five short-term mission trips with our high school youth group. I also was the missions coordinator for our church’s vacation Bible school on summer. In college, I traveled to Chicago twice to serve with Habitat for Humanity during my Easter vacation. And I was privileged to go twice to Urbana, an InterVarsity missions conference for college students. Each one of these experiences has had an impact on me, and I know these experiences have helped to bring housing, help, and hope to those in need.
When I graduated from college, I wrestled with a mission minded decision. Should I go into full-time missions as a missionary, or should I go to work in the world of engineering? The more I grappled with the decision, the more it became clear that God calls people to the “normal” working world just like He calls people to the mission field. As I began to explore and experience the construction industry, it became more and more obvious to me the construction industry is a BIG mission field. God can use Christ followers to make a difference in the corporate world, in schools, in hospitals, and in so many arenas of every day life in America.
After nearly twenty years in the industry, I remain convinced of this. I work in a mission field today.
But there is still a place in my heart for serving others outside my company. There has been a passion in my heart to serve others in strange places. Three years ago, I nearly experienced that dream and passion as my wife and I were preparing to go to Nairobi, Kenya to serve in the slums of Mathare. Some unexpected circumstances caused us to cancel these plans, and I began to wonder and even resolve myself to the fact that this dream would never be actualized.
Fast forward to last spring.
Many of you know the story, I was asked by the high school youth pastor at my church to consider going to Guatemala with the youth group. It was a decision I didn’t take lightly. I prayed. I sought godly council from friends and family members. And I analyzed the reasons to go and not go on this trip. When it came down to it, I had to take a leap of faith.
This initial trip changed my life.
I developed a passion for the people of Guatemala. I started dreaming about going back again. And I began to understand that God could use me at home AND in strange places.
This trip changed other people’s lives.
While we were in Guatemala, our team built a house for a family (thanks to The Stretched Community for funding this project). We installed stoves in the homes of widows in Xenacoj, the community where we served. And we played with children and taught them about the love of Christ.
Many people would naturally wonder if these efforts really made any difference.
I can tell you with certainty that they did! When our family returned to Guatemala last month. We saw how the house we built last year propelled this family forward financially and also spiritually. We saw hope in the eyes of widows we had served last summer. And we even ran into children we had served last year who remembered the “gringos” who came and played with them last summer.
Our short-term mission trip was not a waste. It may have had some short-term impact, but I know it also had long-term impact.
Our family is planning to return to Guatemala to serve again. We think about the people we interacted with last month, and we pray for them constantly. We are strategically thinking about how we can continue to have an impact in Guatemala – even while we’re here at home. And we are sharing our story. We hope we will inspire others to consider similar short-term mission trips. We pray that we might be able to encourage others to find ways to help others in distant lands. And we know that our short-term mission trip will have a long-term impact.
How have you seen small actions result in large outcomes? What small step can you take this week to have a large impact in the future?
Have you ever been on a short-term mission trip? What was the impact of this trip?
What’s stopping you from going on a short-term mission trip?
Would you ever consider going to Guatemala with me on a short-term mission trip?