Written by Bob Dienhart
Why go on a short term mission trip? Can a week of ministry in a foreign land really do that much good? Wouldn’t it easier, better, and far more efficient to simply send the money invested in all the travel to the people being ministered to? Who really benefits?
Those are good questions, questions that I once asked.
I’ve been on six short term mission trips – three to Rwanda and three to Italy – and through experience I have found the following answers.
First, if you are simply able and available then you should go. I recommend a short term mission trip to witness God working in ways that you may never experience by staying in your comfort zone. God may not give you a distinct “call” to take part in a short term trip; you just need the willingness to go and the courage to seize an opportunity to be stretched. Doing so will expand your perspective, overcome some fears, and introduce you to more of God’s greater family, and bless you with new and deeper friendships.
Second, a week of ministry may seem too short to do anything of obvious significance. Of course, you may experience some amazing things. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to be Christ’s hands and feet living out the Gospel message, to show the love of Christ to hearts and souls in need, and to be encouraging image bearers of Christ to those you encounter. God will definitely use you to touch the hearts and souls you minister to and to glorify His name - in His time. We need to trust Him with our work.
Third, yes, it would seem easier to just send money. But money sent has no soul, no witness, and no relatable identity. I once asked ‘John’ Gakwandi, founder of Solace Ministries Rwanda, if it wouldn’t be better for the money spent on a team’s travel to be sent to his ministry instead. His response was a very emphatic “No.” He told me that a team willing to travel to Rwanda builds hope in his people, affirms their significance and worth, and encourages his ministry team to stay the course in the challenging work that they do. This is most likely true for our Mexico and Italy ministry partners, as well.
And fourth, both sides benefit. But they benefit differently. The receiving side benefits from caring smiles and warm greetings, the Christ centered teaching and lived out example a team brings, affirmation of their value to the team and to a loving God, and perhaps tangible work that is done with them for their benefit. It’s hard to measure the final value of what a team gives them because the results are ultimately up to God. Those going, however, can benefit immensely and that is the real strength and blessing of a properly done short term mission trip. Within every team new friendships start and existing friendships get stronger as the team bonds in the context of a shared experience that God uses to His glory. Leaving home to serve in a different place broadens perspectives, tears down biases, deepens one’s sense of mission, and awakens an awareness of the amazing diversity of God’s family. During a short term trip members become isolated from their normal distractions and defenses and are thrust into an environment that necessitates adaptation, graciousness, and vulnerability. God uses this openness to reach team members in ways that are unavailable to Him in the home comfort zone. And this leads to amazing encounters with our very personal God.
The secret to an effective short term mission ministry is repeated visits to serve with a purpose of building relationship with those being served. That is the “secret sauce” that makes short term missions work. Good relationships require time and it is in those kind of relationships that the work of the Gospel is best accomplished. This is the Mercy Hill approach to short term missions.
So, should you go on a short term mission trip? Absolutely! If you are well enough and available you should definitely go. If you want to grow in your relationship with Christ in new and exciting ways you should go. If you want to be stretched and maybe really called into His service you should go.