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Over the years, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about short-term missions.  They ask me why I think mission trips are important.  And sometimes they even tell me I’m crazy for thinking short-term mission trips are worthwhile at all.  This week, I’ll share with you some of the reasons I believe short-term mission trips are worthwhile and important.

Before I start, I think it’s important for you to know my history with short-term mission trips.  I’ve been on more than a few trips.  When I was in high school, I went on five mission trips with my high school youth group.  We went to Bellefonte (Pennsylvania), Cherryfield (Maine), Coatesville (Pennsylvania), Rochester (New York), and Syracuse (New York).  Each of these trips gave me the opportunity to serve with my fellow students building houses and doing other handyman projects.  As I look back on these trips, I remember how much we accomplished, and I also remember the fun we had together working hard and playing.

When I was a college at Grove City College, I had the privilege of going on two Inner City Outreach (ICO) trips to Chicago where we worked with Habitat for Humanity providing housing to people in need in the Irving Park area of Chicago.  I’ll always remember playing softball across the street from the Irving Park Methodist Church with Hunter Boyd, Erik Anderson, and Mike Black.  These trips gave me an unbelievable opportunity to bond with students from Grove City College while we served during our Easter break.

More recently, I’ve been to Guatemala five times in the past six years where I’ve had opportunities to serve in the villages of Santo Domingo Xenacoj and San Raymundo.  These trips have included house construction, feeding programs, and ministry to orphans and widows.

I’ve helped to plan several of these trips, and I’ve attended as a participant.  The experiences have all been very valuable.  I share this to let you know that I’ve gone on multiple mission trips (and I hope to go on many more).  While I still have a lot to learn about short-term missions, I believe I have some experience that has served me well and will hopefully cause you to think about going on a short-term missions trip of your own.

Short term missions provide an incredible opportunity to expand your community.

On a short-term missions trip, your community expands by putting you in a foreign place.  Whether you serve overseas or domestically, you are likely to find yourself outside your normal community.  Thanks to my short-term mission trips, I’ve connected with people from across the country and around the world that I normally would not have met – people like German Espana in Santo Domingo, Guatemala.  He’s a man who had tried to provide for his family by working in the United States.  His heart for widows and orphans expanded when he moved back to his own village and deepened his relationship with Jesus.  I also count as blessings the families we have served – people like Lydia, Betty, Angela, Maria, Dolores, and Carmen.  These women and their stories have touched my heart and expanded my understanding of community.

On a short-term missions trip, your community expands by drawing you closer to your team members.  This summer when I traveled to Guatemala with a group of 33 people from my church, my community expanded tremendously as I connected with each of the team members and learned many of their stories.  The trip gave us an intense and intentional time together where we were able to share together, pray together, eat together, serve together, and even play together.  I laughed, cried, and huddled with people I may never have really known outside the missions trip.

On a short-term missions trip, your community expands by opening your eyes to what others are doing to serve.  I have connected with so many great people from organizations like Casas por Cristo, Habitat for Humanity, Adventures in Missions (AIM), and GO Ministries as a result of these trips.  My community expanded to include people like Tyler Miller (Casas por Cristo), Pete Dockery (Casas por Cristo), Joshua Crabbs (Casas por Cristo), Dave Sgro (GO Ministries), and Seth Barnes (AIM).  I’m thankful for these ministries and missionaries who have showed me what it looks like to expand your community with the intention of sharing God’s love.

You and I were meant for community.

That community should be happening right where you live, but it doesn’t have to stop there.  Now is a great time to consider expanding your community outside your neighborhood through a short-term missions trip.

How has your community expanded as a result of a short-term missions experience?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

4-things-i-learned-when-grandpa-called-me

I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.

James Avery

Friday afternoon at the end of my workday, I received a phone call from my Grandpa.  Grandpa Miller lives in Minneapolis, MN, and I live outside of Philadelphia, PA which means we don’t see each other very often.  And I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t talk nearly as often as we should.  I think we both share the guilt for our infrequent conversations.

One of the things that keeps us connected is my blog.  Every time I publish a new blog post, Grandpa gets an email from me.  He keeps tabs on me in part by reading my blog posts.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I didn’t publish a single blog post last week.  One person did notice – Grandpa.  His phone call on Friday afternoon was a call of concern for me.  Was a sick?  Was I busy?  Was I okay?  Grandpa called to check-up on me.

Grandpa’s phone call reminded me of several important things.

Grandpa and My Niece

Grandpa and My Niece

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

  1. I am loved.  Grandpa’s phone calls always remind me that I am loved.  We may not talk as regularly as we should, but I know we are thinking of each other.  In fact, Grandpa regularly prays for my family and me.  You are loved, too!
  2. I am missed when I don’t show up.  For over nine years, I’ve been writing blog posts here.  I don’t often realize the impact of my writing discipline.  The last couple of weeks have been particularly busy for me, so I decided to put attention to other things besides writing blog posts.  I guess I didn’t realize the impact of my decision.  It’s nice to know I was missed.  And I am reminded to practice the discipline of showing up – even here on my blog.  You are missed when you don’t show up!
  3. My words and actions matter to others.  It is my prayer that my words (and actions) will encourage others and will bring glory to God.  Grandpa’s phone call reminded me that my words do matter.  They keep people informed, and they stretch people to live life with more intention.  Your words and actions matter to others!
  4. I am meant to live in community.  When life gets overwhelming, I sometimes have a tendency to close up.  I’m an extrovert, but I also have a strong desire to be in control.  When I get too busy, it’s easy for me to put on blinders.  I focus so intently on the things on my schedule and my to-do list that I forget to latch into the people around me – my community.  If you’re reading this, you are part of my community.  I need you, and I think you may need me.  We need each other.  I can’t physically be with Grandpa thanks to the challenges of geography and responsibilities, but I can be present with Grandpa by connecting with him more intentionally.  You are meant to live in community!

Thank you, Grandpa, for calling!  It meant the world to me to hear your voice and to know you care.  I love you!

Who do you need to call today?  What are you going to do about it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.