Why do I do short term trips?
If I were to be honest, I would say that I always have as much hesitation as I do desire to lead short term trips. And yet there is something deep inside me that pushes me to do it. When I first started serving in Guatemala, I went independently. I knew I was to return every year, but I did it without incorporating any of the Body of Christ. People ask, how many years have you been traveling to Guatemala – and when I say 17, they usually ask, “Why did I never know about it before?”
That is because it was something that I did, and not something that I did to involve others. Taking others is a lot of work and preparation and energy. Taking others means that I can’t be as independent. I have to think about their needs, and their experience and focus on them. And so instead of pouring into the people in Guatemala, I am pouring into those that come with me.
But ten years ago I was convicted that I had a connection in Guatemala, to a family and a ministry that was very dear to me and it was selfish of me to go and serve there without inviting others. That others wanted to be involved as well and did not have connections, and I was to be the bridge to connect them. This was the Body of Christ working how God intended. The Body did not consist of just an arm or a foot. In not involving others, I was not doing my part with the Great Commission. I was robbing others the chance to gain a global perspective and a heart for other people groups. And so I began to include others in what was going on in Guatemala. I took people with me, created a child sponsorship program that others could pray for the children within our nutrition program, created a school sponsorship program, involved the high school students where I used to teach and the church community. I tried to think of all of the ways that others could be involved from going to sending to praying and everything in between.
Because missions is to be global with many arms and many parts. It is not to be self-focused or project focused. Missions is not just for those on the field. It takes the support from all of these angles to reach all peoples.
There are many arguments out there against short term missions and I agree with many of them – that it would be more beneficial to hire locals to do the minimal work that we will be doing. That many times teams can do more harm than good in their short time there; that it is difficult to make a lasting impression on the people and share the gospel with a culture that you do not know.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
All of these are true. All of these are valid arguments. Yet all of these also need the Body to work together effectively for the spread of the gospel to occur. Those on the ground need a backing.
Yes, there is money spent on plane tickets that would be better spent to employ a Guatemalan. There is time taken away from ministry that is a distraction and it sometimes takes longer to complete something with someone, than it does without them. Yes translating and explaining and talking are an investment. But alone our efforts fail and fade. Where ever we are. We are to be encouraging others to carry on the same work in their “field” and often the spark is lit on a short term trip when out of your comfort zone.
Without the short term experience, there would be no exposure to these cultures. And so, when God opened my eyes to my own selfish behavior or remaining focused on what I was doing…. And pressed upon me to take along others beside me…. Something bigger than myself happened. The passion inside of me and desire was multiplied in others. Friends, former students of mine, kids I worked with in youth group, members of my church or community have made the trek to Guatemala. And as they have, I have realized something. The face of missions is changing. Many that are committing their lives to missions are not generational missionaries. The trend used to be that the MKs (Missionary Kids) were who became the new work force on the mission field. But those who are picking up the reigns now are those who feel the call on their hearts when on a short term trip. And those that are dearest to my heart, who have served in Guatemala fall into this category. Those serving long term, began the journey through a short term trip.
And so, I do short term missions to equip, empower and encourage others who want to do something for the Kingdom of God but just aren’t sure how to do that. And through the experience that they have, they see how they are a piece of the puzzle that God has for spreading the gospel around the world. I have six teens that I mentored through their high school/ college years serving outside of the US. Dear friends that made their first week long trip to Guatemala, only to become involved and invested long term with their family. And although the money and effort that it takes on my end to lead short term trips overwhelmes me at times, it is when I realize that those that invest in short term trips, are the ones that will be making an investment past their week there. They will be the ones who sustain the ministries. That will pray. That will financially support global missions. They are the ones that hear God’s call to take what has touched their hearts and go somewhere on the field, whether it is near or far. And allow God to continue to mold their journey.
I have been asking myself a lot lately why I decided to follow obedience to what God has asked me to do and lead another trip. And it is just that – it is an act of obedience to how God is calling others to invest in the great commission. The truth, only through God will we impact the Guatemalans in any way in our ten days in country. But I know that hearts will be changed, forever. That God has a specific purpose for EACH of the members of every short term team that goes out. You cannot take a trip and not be changed.
And so I say yes. I say yes to God once again that I will take a group. Yes to God once again that He has something specific for each of them. Yes to God once again on raising the funds, preparing hearts, and allowing God to lead. My focus is not to change the life of a Guatemalan. Because I know that this does not happen in a one week exposure. My desire is to help bridge the gap and encourage both stateside and in Guatemala. Because reaching all people with the gospel is something that takes a team. A team of people who have a fire lit underneath them that want to reach out. That see the bigger picture of what they are involved in. To reach all people groups it takes those who are outside of the walls of their house, loving their neighbors. It takes those who are willing to give of their finances and time. It takes those who are willing to do short term and long term and medium term. And it takes hearts to be opened to see that this life is about serving where we can with the abilities given to us.
And so, we are set to leave on June 22 for another of these trips. This time a team of 7 with diverse backgrounds. It will be the first time in Guatemala for each of them. And my prayer is that God uses this time to widen their perspective on missions and see that it is something that they can be involved in for a life time. Where ever God places them on this planet.