A Few Reasons a Short Term Mission Trip Might Change Your Life
Are 18 hours of travel, a temperature jump from 0 degrees to 81, a missed connection courtesy of Delta, a mad dash from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami, a divine intervention with LAN & TSA worth it for 8 days in a foreign city in a foreign nation where I can’t drink the water? Bucaramanga, Colombia, a city of 1.2 million people is not a vacation spot or a tourist destination but that’s not why I went. I went to see God at work and I was not disappointed!
During our 8 days, we visited a women’s prison (including some babies and kids), a neighborhood school (where the visiting “gringos” were treated as celebrities and asked for pictures and autographs), a church sponsored day care, 3 local churches and went house to house in a nearby town praying for people. We were also able to pray for pastors and leaders. I was amazed by the openness to God and the willingness to receive prayer even in the street. The worship music was loud & enthusiastic but passionate. The leaders are young and I was impressed by our interpreters who helped us – they are college students and emerging leaders in their nation. Most special to me was to see them stretch themselves and watch God work through them.
I could make a long list of how God showed up with his power and love. A few examples will suffice: 2 women we prayed for felt sadness leave them. A young lady with pressure in her right ear reported it disappeared. 2 older men with little vision said they were seeing much better after prayer. Serious back and abdominal pain left. In contrast to usual results in the U.S. these happened quickly, easily and were repeated in the testimonies of other team members and many had far more dramatic healing to report. In contrast, praying for people in the U.S. is tough & visible answers are rare. Why that is of course the million dollar question. The U.S. Church is still so dominated not only by skepticism and unbelief that stems from the legacy of Western enlightenment rationalism, but the entertainment oriented pro-technic “big show” way of church expected by consumers leaves little room for God to act, besides show up.
There is nothing quite like being in an environment where God is visibly active & people are being transformed by his power. While I went to see what God would do for others, God was working on me. My heart is all too easily weighted down by people’s seemingly intractable problems, the lifelessness and sterility of the church, my ragged track record of leadership, my own struggle with self-worth and my myriad other short-comings. So even as I watched others encounter the living God, I did as well.
There is also real need in Colombia. I know a few days does not make me a missiologist and forgive me if I’m presumptuous but I saw quickly that new believers need to be grounded in the faith. There is a need for an understanding of how God heals the wounded heart since there is a sad legacy of all kinds of abuse and abandonment from the distorted masculinity of “machismo.” However, God’s Spirit is burning brightly and the fire will grow and intensify.
Sadly, there are some self-appointed critics who feel they need to pontificate about the short comings of short-term mission trips & feel their calling is to discourage anyone from trying one. I believe the benefits far out way the supposed detriments. The blessings of short-term mission trips include:
-establishing unity in the body of Christ in different nations;
-breaking down stereotypes and walls between believers of different cultures;
-exposure to the realities of life outside the comforts of the First World;
-enabling more effective prayer for the church in the nations after first hand experience;
-challenging one’s faith beyond consumer churchianity;
-awakening an understanding of the reality of spiritual conflict and the victory of Jesus Christ and his power and authority;
-encouraging and assisting emerging leaders in stepping out of their comfort zone;
and last but not least…
– doing the stuff Jesus did.
Don’t let the nay-sayers stop you from what most likely will change your life!