Friday, August 28, 2015

Short term missions?

We don't  like "short-term missions."

You may think that is odd for someone who takes one or two mission trips a year and takes others with them for 2 or 3 weeks at a time.

As followers of Christ, we believe that He has called us to all be missionaries - all day, every day. He said that we should serve locally and "to the ends of the earth."

So, why do mission trips if you don't like "short-term missions?"

We do mission trips to serve the body of Christ in Africa according to the calling God put on our lives. But our overwhelming passion is for long-term relationships in the areas that we serve. There is nothing "short-term" about it.

We have seen many people go into an area for a week or two and never come back. They never see those people again and the people there know that those "missionaries" are on a trip and aren't really engaged in their lives or situations. Can you see why they might be skeptical or try to make the most of those exposures?

We have made a commitment to go back to the people we serve and follow-up - whether it is teaching a conference for pastors and spouses or going back to develop a community school in a slum.

When we started supporting Wisdom Community School, three and a half years ago, God made it clear to us that He was calling us to a long term commitment - a mission. How long? We don't know. But we are committed to continue that mission as long as He tells us to go.

So, what should we call these short mission trips?

Relevant magazine recently suggested these ideas:

  1. Vision (or Exposure) Trips. A focused, intentional time where we ask God to open our hearts to the plight of the poor.

    What the eye has not seen, the heart cannot grieve over. So it's natural that when people find themselves face to face with poverty for the first time, something significant happens. The rest of our lives are irrevocably shaped by what we have witnessed. We gain vision.

  2. Learning Exchanges. Times when our theology and understanding of the world is rocked to the core and deconstructed.

    When we travel as learners, eager to have our minds expanded and preconceptions challenged, we will not be disappointed. This category includes those who travel as part of their vocation—as a builder, surgeon or dentist, for example—but are open to learning from God while they are passing on expertise to others in another country.
  3. Discernment Retreats. Where we discern our vocation more deeply on the margins.

    To pursue a vocation in any field without the perspective of the world's poor (where God's heart and good news is centered) is folly. How can we be a banker for God if we don’t know how the financial services industry affects the poor? How can we be an architect or planner for God, if we don’t know how the design of cities affects the homeless? How can we be a teacher, if we don’t bring the reality of the world's poorest to our students?

    These trips could spark a new vocation—or even be a partial outworking of our current vocation (e.g., who serves overseas from time to time).
But let's not call them "short-term missions."