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.
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.
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.