I don’t plan to do this often, but as I’m in the process of working on some things I would like to post on here, I thought I would fill the silence by posting something I’ve written before.
I posted this in 2010 on my (lonely and neglected) blog. I stumbled across it today and thought it might like to see the light of day again. So here it goes!
Short-term (as in a week or two) mission trips are amazing. I’ve heard certain objections, particularly that the short-termers (out of innocent ignorance) might come in and disrupt or set back the work of the long-term missionaries in an area, and I’ve even heard “Why fund someone’s short-term mission trip? What can somebody really accomplish in one short week?” It’s true that it is difficult to make a real, lasting impact on a new area in such a short time. But the more I think about it, I think this is not really the primary purpose of short-term missions. Short-term missions are a unique and powerful opportunity for people to broaden their view of the world, God, and His love for His people. More specifically, short-term mission trips often birth a love for the work of missions and pave the way for God’s calling in the lives of long-term missionaries. This was the experience I had when I didn’t even know I was seeking it.
My freshman year of college, a senior who had been a friend and mentor from my freshman orientation ran into me in the library and asked what I was doing on spring break that year. Spring break was just in a few weeks, but I hadn’t even thought about it. He told me he was going with his church on a week-long mission trip to the Dominican Republic, and he asked me if I wanted to join them. I had never traveled out of the country, and I had no clue how I could raise the $1200 it would cost for the trip. I told him I didn’t think it would work out since I didn’t know where I would get the money in such a short time, and I didn’t even have a passport. Thankfully he didn’t give up on me, and after encouraging me that the money would come together, he even said, “Why don’t you come with me now and I’ll drive you to the passport office so you can get an expedited passport?” We did that, and I started asking people in my church if they would be interested in funding my trip. My church gave me $400 in the following days, and I was encouraged, but I still wondered where the other $800 would come from. The next day I went to a new dentist to have a filling done. We started chatting , and I told him about my upcoming trip. He asked me how much money I’d raised so far, and thinking he was just being conversational, I told him. He looked at me for a moment and then said, “I’d like to match the $400 you’ve already raised.” I was astonished. My parents and I were able to afford the remaining $400, and before I knew it, I was on my first non-domestic flight on my way to the Dominican Republic. I would like to write in detail sometime about what I experienced there, but I will sum it up quickly by saying that it permanently changed something in me. All of a sudden I had a bigger understanding of God and His creation and my place in it, and He gave me a passion and excitement for missions I’d never had before. There’s a fairly involved story about what has passed between then and now to stifle that in many ways, but I’ll save that for another time as well. The point I’d like to focus on is that this one-week experience where I made little (if any) impact on the people of the DR irrevocably changed my life and my faith. If it had not been for my friend’s encouragement and persistence, my church’s and family’s support, and the unexpected gift of my dentist, I would not have had this experience. In His providence and wisdom, the Holy Spirit worked in the hearts of these people to put me in a position to have my heart and life changed forever.
There is a Caedmon’s Call (yes, them again) song called “Two Weeks in Africa” that ties in closely with these thoughts. This song says,”Two weeks, and we all can feel a calling (two weeks) to make the world a little smaller.” Later in the song, they sing, “We put the walls up, but Jesus keeps them standing. He doesn’t need us, but He lets us put our hand in, so we can see His love is bigger than you and me.” I feel like this was my experience, and what it has done and is still doing in my life is tremendous (and the topic of yet another future post). But if you are a believer and have ever been asked for financial support toward a short-term mission trip, I hope you will think about what I have written here and realize the amazing opportunity you have to be involved in advancing God’s kingdom through investing in someone to allow them the opportunity to discover things they never knew about their faith, God, and His calling on their life.