Today, we continue in our series Step of Faith.
Last week, we framed our conversation of church missions on the foundation of building a missions mindset.
Our mandate to go into the world and preach the gospel comes directly from scripture in the church community. Additionally, we leverage this command to include local mission efforts as well as global ones.
Local missions might be defined as serving the homeless through a meal program, conducting an after-school program, or providing shelter to those in need.
This week, we pivot slightly to look at short-term mission trip opportunities. Let’s take a minute to define long-term and short-term mission opportunities.
Long-Term Missions is most associated with “career” missionaries – those who have made it their life’s work living abroad in a foreign country, living in their home country and performing most of their work in another country, or working in a parachurch organization as their calling.
Short-Term Missions are usually defined as a short-term trip of some kind, whether domestically or internationally. STM’s, for short, can last a few days or a few months. STMs allow people to engage their missional hearts by participating in trips outside of their normal activities.
The mission of our Mexico-focused mission trips is to serve the families of Ensenada, Mexico, by building a home for them to enable them to make their way out of poverty and point them to Jesus.
During the week, we might also lead a sports ministry (soccer or basketball) and conduct a Vacation Bible School.
This year, our team is building two homes for Mexican families and conducting a Vacation Bible School. Our teams range from 15 or 20 to as many as 45 people.
The call of short-term missions is just that…it’s a calling. When I discuss trips like this or others, I am a firm believer that God knocks on the door of our hearts and invites us to join Him in His work.
However, the closer truth maybe, you are going because a friend invited you to go. Sometimes, the call starts with an invitation from a friend. Other times, it begins with a dream deeply rooted in our souls.
Some of my past trips included travel to Eastern Europe, specifically Russia and Moldova. For years, I had a deep desire to visit the small country of Moldova.
Moldova is one of the smallest and poorest countries that were part of the former Soviet block. On average, over the past ten years, the Moldovan people earn $479 per month.
source: tradingeconomics.com (Graph showing Moldovan Monthly Income)
Maybe it was growing up during the Cold War or hearing the stories of Brother Andrew smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, but I wanted to visit this country.
The people were warm, caring, and inviting. When we stayed with host families, you did your best to get to know them or use a translator if one was available. Short-term mission trips allow you to engage with people in a new way.
To this day, I still have friends all over the globe as a result of these short-term trips.
When I started going to Mexico, the phrase that kept surfacing in my heart was Changing Communities For Christ. In a small way, we are helping to stop the flow of generational poverty in Mexico and bringing the life-changing message of Christ.
In Mark 6:15 it says,
“And then he told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.’”
Jesus’ qualifier was not to preach the Good News (the Gospel) to some people but everyone.
In Matthew’s gospel account, Jesus says,
“The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” — Matthew 9:37-38
Some men and women are called into lifetime mission work. In fact, our church supports many who have answered Christ’s call to live in places that are completely foreign to our way of life.
However, there are only so many people who do this as their “job,” so to speak. This is where you and I come in.
We are “workers.” When we work with the homeless, minister in juvenile halls, care for the orphans, or travel out of the country, we carry Christ’s call with us to be “workers in the fields.”
When we open our hearts to serving, whether locally or globally, we invite the Holy Spirit to challenge us, mold us, and create in us a heart for the hurting and the lost.
When I share the pictures and stories from my global travels, I enable the donors to participate in the journey with us. As we saw last week, some people are senders and others are called to go.
The Lord is at work in our hearts and around the world.
I want to encourage you to lean into what the Lord may be doing in your heart right now. Sometimes the seedling of an idea or a calling or a passion is birthed long before you ever experience your first short-term mission trip.
We may never see the true impact of our service on this side of heaven for many of us.
If the Lord is tapping on your heart to serve locally or globally, I challenge you to take this step of faith. It will be scary, but it will also be rewarding.
Many full-time missionaries started as short-term missionaries. I don’t have the calling to full-time mission work, but I feel called to serve on short-term trips.
God has gifted us with unique talents and skills. For some, it might be leadership or teaching or singing, and for others, you love to build stuff. The Lord takes our gifts and talents and uses them for His purpose and glory.
Most of my mission work uses my creative gifts – photography and writing – to share the story of God’s work around the world. And occasionally, you end up with one or two memories that are etched on your soul.
In 2011, I traveled to a small village outside of Petrozavodsk, Russia, in mid-March. Petrozavodsk is a 12-hour train ride to the northeast from St. Petersburg, Russia. The snow (and ice) were still on the ground as we wove our way to this village.
When we arrived at our destination, we were greeted by a young family – mother, father, three elementary school-age children, and a beautiful newborn.
The village had no running water inside the house or lights. I have been to many remote villages, but there was something about the landscape of this village that made me pay attention.
The two little daughters were adorable. They were photogenic, loved to laugh, and play games. They loved to play patty-cake if you remember that old kid's game.
When the one daughter smiled, her teeth were rotten to the core due to the lack of dental care. I have bad teeth – part genetics, part other stuff. For a while, it seemed like I had a permanent chair at the dentist.
I wanted to bring her back to the states with me and get her teeth fixed – it broke my heart. Before we left, we took a photograph of the family emblematic of the Cold War family life in a remote village.
For us, we got to leave and go back to a warm house with indoor plumbing, but that night they would light a few candles, go outside for clean water, and bring it in to flush their toilets and boil for cooking.
This experience remains etched on my heart.
God uses ordinary people (like you and me) to expand the Kingdom of Heaven, give hope to the hopeless, pull families out of generational poverty, and create new families.
What is God asking you to do?
Whether you are sending someone, helping your local food pantry, or going yourself, you are part of Changing Communities for Christ.
Lord, thank you for the day you have created. Thank you for tapping us to join you in the work you are doing across the street and worldwide. Please help us be attentive to Your leading, and give us the courage to take a step of faith when you ask us to go. Amen!
Dispatches From the Field
I have been fortunate to travel the globe with many different organizations as a short-term missionary. Over the years, I have collected photographs and stories from my trips.
Each day this month, I am releasing a photograph and story from a trip. The pictorial journey is titled Dispatches From The Field, and you can get these dispatches exclusively from the Rocking Chair Devotions website by signing up for a free account at https://rockingchairdevotions.com/signup.
I have posted two pictures and stories to give you a taste of the dispatches. I hope you will check out the dispatches and see how God can use you to make a difference in missions across the street or worldwide.