Today, we kick off our brand new series – Small World, Big Heart – with a look at short-term missions. Currently, forty people in Mexico from my church serve alongside YUGO Ministries as we build homes and conduct a Vacation Bible School.
As I shared last week in my 100th episode, I had planned to serve with them as a photographer and writer, but some unexpected life events revealed that God was asking me to postpone my service in Mexico.
Stories From the Road
Growing up, I participated in local missions with youth choirs. We would sing, perform drama stories, and serve as leaders in Vacation Bible Schools. We would usually travel about 100 miles away and enjoy ministering to kids of all ages.
I grew up loving this type of mission work. It was fun and challenging, and you got to know each other along the way.
As I got older, my mission trips took me to far-off lands. I have traveled throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, most of Europe, Africa, and Russia. Each of these experiences has revealed God in a new way.
When I was eighteen, I traveled to Kenya, Africa as a sound engineer with U.S. Continental Singers. This was my first trip out of the country and my first experience with the spirit-led Pentecostal movement.
We were in a large meeting hall in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, and the group had finished singing, and the preacher was just beginning his message. It was not uncommon for church services to go two or three hours.
I couldn’t go anywhere as the sound engineer since they were using our equipment, and the preacher was on fire that night. About halfway through his message (none of which I could understand since I didn’t speak the language), the floor began to roll and shake like an earthquake.
However, it wasn’t an earthquake but the power of the Holy Spirit working in the room.
Another time, I was traveling to a refugee camp between the Czech Republic and Austria when I had fallen asleep on the drive. During this drive, I clearly felt the Lord say you will give your testimony, so be ready.
These are a couple of examples of God’s work in my life from my short-term mission trips. Next week, I will share a few more dispatches from the field of God’s good work.
Short Term Missions
Short-term mission trips are a great way to expose individuals to another culture and allow them to serve the Lord differently than they would at church.
These trips can be either local or global in nature. I have served on both types of trips. Local short-term missions could be:
- Working with the homeless
- Ministering at a local drug or alcohol rehab facility
- Singing with a choir that goes out into the community
The list is endless for how you can participate in ministries in your backyard so-to-speak.
As I shared earlier, our church is in Mexico building homes and leading a Vacation Bible School. This service is close enough to drive to but far enough from our backyard to pull us out of our normal daily routines.
For several years, I co-led the trips to Mexico and encouraged families to participate as a way for parents to model missions work to their children. Kids are great at mission work because they easily engage with kids from other cultures. They don’t get hung up on whether they can speak the language or not like us, adults.
Mission Trips Can Change Your Life
For some, short-term mission trips can lead to a career in the mission field, while others can lead to repeated trips to the same region.
I fell in love with the Russian and Moldovan people and repeatedly returned to that region of the world. In 2011, I had a year-long visa to Russia and took two trips to Russia in the same year.
Last year, I interviewed Jenette McEntire, whose life changed forever when she traveled to Romania. She and her husband fell in love with a little girl, which led to a 16-year international adoption journey.
And it all started with a short-term mission trip.
Whether you are serving in your neighborhood or across the globe, the Lord uses these trips to challenge us, shape us, shake us, and grow us into who He wants us to be.
Serving Each Other
Short-term mission work requires us to be flexible and to get out of our comfort zone. It also requires us to humble ourselves and serve others. We aren’t serving just the people in the location where we are, but we are serving our fellow travelers.
When I went to Mexico, my role was to take photographs and write about our work so our donors could share in our experiences.
Most of the time, this meant that I would take pictures, shuttle team members from location to location, and then begin my work in the evening upon our return.
After dinner and chapel, I would begin the work of looking for the moments that would capture the day's events, edit the photographs and write about them. Each morning, an email would go out to supporters so they could experience what we experienced on the ground.
Those were long days and sometimes even longer nights, but it was worth bringing others along on the journey.
For most of my short-term experiences, I worked to bring others along on the journey for them to pray for the team.
Called to Short-Term Missions
I am a firm believer that we are called to short and long-term missions work. God taps us on the heart and asks us to go and join Him in the work He is doing here and abroad.
Sometimes we go reluctantly, and other times we go willingly. God has His reasons for calling you to short-term missions work. He might be preparing you for a life of missions.
He might be challenging you to give up a piece of the good life so you can understand how someone else is living.
He might be asking you to take this step of faith so you can take a bigger step of faith in the future.
His ways are not ours, and each person has a different call in their life.
Supporters of Missions
We often think that going on a short-term mission trip is where it is at, but some people aren’t called to go on a mission trip; they are called to be senders.
Senders are vitally important to mission work. If you have given to a missions agency or someone going on a mission trip, you are a sender (and you can be both).
I am both a sender and someone who goes on trips.
My parents are senders. They do not feel called to go on mission trips, but they are called to support those who go on mission trips or have chosen mission work as their life’s work.
Who Are You?
Are you someone who goes on a mission trip, are you a sender, or are you both?
God calls each one of us differently concerning missions. You might be a doctor who loves to go on medical mission trips.
You might be someone who has a gift for languages and loves other cultures, and this is how God uses you.
God rarely has a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to missions, and that is exciting. He uses everyone differently but with the same purpose…to reach people with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.
God may be tapping you on your heart and asking you to join Him in the work He is already doing in your neighborhood or worldwide. Are you listening for His knocking on your heart?
I know how God speaks to me when it comes to serving on short-term trips, and I also know when He might be asking me to take a step back.
Ask God where He wants you to serve, and follow His lead.
Matthew 28:19 says,
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”1
Jeremiah 29:11 says,
“For I know the plans I have for you, to prosper you and not to harm you.”2
God may be preparing you for your next step, and missions are a great way to get away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life so you can hear His voice more clearly while meeting the needs of those around you.
You never know how a short-term mission trip will change your life.
Lord, thank you for your guidance, goodness, and faithfulness in our lives. Thank you for your provision in our lives and for calling us to join you in your work in our neighborhoods and worldwide. Please use us to make a difference in the lives of those who come into contact with us each day. Amen!
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