Short Term Mission Trips

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by Dr. Bob, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
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    Can we open a discussion of the value/lack of value of such endeavors? We've talked about missions generally in various forums on the BB, but just looking for parents/lay perspective on this.

    Good, bad, ugly?

    [full disclosure: My high school ministry pastor son is in Kenya today with 30 teens on a 10-day trip. His RN wife did a 15-day medical mission trip to the same church/region last summer setting up a mobile clinic ministry. Some years ago my son brought 35 teens to Wyoming to spend a week at a wilderness camp painting, building, erecting an obstacle course, etc. Our church sent a small group to the Baja to help with church construction for a week this past summer. My oldest son did 16 months in Korea after graduating from high school to assist in their Christian School and minister on the DMZ with military. These would be examples dear to my heart.]
     
  2. Dr. Bob

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  3. annsni

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    I think short term missions trips can be VERY good - if we are actually doing a work where we go. It's common for churches to do "tourist missions trips" where they go and expect to be entertained while they are gone. They do a few handing out tracts thing or do a couple of skits and then the rest of the time, they are a drain on the team that they are visiting.

    I know at our church, we have two main regular short term trips we do. One is to Nicaragua where we work with a number of people there. We will train the teachers in new ways to teach, we will work with the children while the teachers are being trained and do sports things with them and then we will also teach the women/mothers to sew so that they can begin to support their family.

    The other missions trip is to Cuba where we are helping to build a seminary. We also will support the local pastors and do training with them as well. We've brought suitcases of materials for building and tools for them and will leave them there and last time we were there, we brought 9 laptops for the pastors to use.

    We've also been available for our missionaries in other locations to send a team to help with some sort of project that is needed. Most of the time these are actual building projects but additionally we've gone to train or to do children's ministries. None of the times did we go with empty hands or an expectation of sightseeing while we're there. I know our missionaries have been blessed greatly by what they have told us. It's very different than what many churches do.
     
  4. mets65

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    My parents have been involved with several short term mission trips to Honduras, roughly ten days at a time, and they really seemed to make an impact on the folks there. They still send supplies to help a church that was started there.
     
  5. Scarlett O.

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    I think they are GREAT, but I have a prejudice about that! :laugh:

    I went on a two-week mission trip to Canton, Oklahoma at the age of 16. The Native Americans there at some of the Indian churches had requested that some churches come and instruct them in how to conduct Vacation Bible School.

    Our pastor, several young people, and several lay adults went and we held revival services at night and VBS during the day. People were saved, an alcoholic man was delivered, and my life was forever changed.

    Short-term missions are a wonderful way to get lay people involved in missions other than just dropping money in the offering plate every time a missionary comes to speak at church.

    Most people are not called to be full time missionaries and cannot take more time from their OWN God-called life than a few weeks at a time. God honors their work, too, and uses them. It's the best way that I know of to get the nitty-gritty bird's eye view of just what the Great Commission is all about and how much the rest of the world past our own noses and local churches need the Lord and need Christians doing the work of the Lord.

    We all have the Great Commission in our own neighborhood, schools, and work places. But it's good for us to see that there is a whole world that needs God, too.
     
    #5 Scarlett O., Feb 8, 2011
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2011
  6. John of Japan

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    I've seen or heard of all three: the good, the bad and the ugly.

    First of all, the good. The visitors pay for everything themselves, are aware of cultural differences and try to fit in. Their goal is to be complete servants, to help the missionary and national pastors. An example of this is a music group that comes over from Indiana every year, sponsored by a Japanese pastor friend of mine. They hold evangelistic services, give their testimonies and play good music. All they need from the pastor is a place to stay and an interpreter.

    Secondly, the bad. The visitors ignore the culture and sometimes even the laws of the host country. They are there to add to their resume. They don't have a servant's heart, but love to tell the missionary or national pastor what they are doing wrong. An example of this is a group of carpenters who came over to help build a chapel for a missionary friend of mine who has a camp ministry. They believed the American way is always best and ignored the missionary's instructions. In particular, they didn't listen to the missionary when he instructed them on how he wanted the work done. (He's a former rocket engineer--literally--and an excellent carpenter). As a result, after the carpenters went home my friend had to rip out what they had done and redo it to match Japanese legal standards.

    Finally, the ugly. These visitors visit the field with no thought of helping the missionary or being a blessing. They are there strictly for selfish reasons. I once had three people like this come, a missionary from Haiti with her friend and grandson. She had given her grandson a HS graduation present of a trip to Japan, where he wanted to train in karate. I had to pay the tolls on the way back from the airport, my own train fare, etc. They complained about our tiny 4 room apartment, so I found them a Christian hostel in Tokyo. I found the karate dojo in Tokyo for the boy--nary a thank you. No thank you letters later on after their trip. They wasted our time and money and left us hoping we'd never meet again.:(

    I know you're looking for parent/lay commentary on this, Dr. Bob, but I just had to say something.

    God bless.
     
    #6 John of Japan, Feb 8, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2011
  7. idonthavetimeforthis

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    From my own experience, short term mission trips have been very good. I always felt like I came back more blessed than those that I tried to be a blessing to. Each were also a real eye opener & a reminder of how good we've got it.
     
  8. Tom Butler

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    My pastor and I joined a dozen others (including nurses) on a two-week mission trip to Romania. It was life-changing and forced me to re-evaluate everything that we Baptists in American do and say in presenting the gospel. At the time, Romania was just a few years out of Communism, their economy was struggling, and years of Godless government had left pockets of corruption all over.

    But those believers (they called themselves "repenters") had forged their faith under fire, and they just didn't have time to "play church."

    Each day,Romanian pastors and preachers from surrounding villages would come in and my pastor would teach them hermeneutics. We took brand-new Bibles in their language with us, and gave them to the pastors. Then we'd go out into town and give away New Testaments, sometimes opposed by the Orthdox priests (they accused of of "sheep stealing"). Then at night, we go to nearby villages and have church.

    In the headquarters churches where we'd spread out from each day, their average church attendance was two-to-three times their membership--just the opposite from American churches.

    When they were under Communism, when someone would come to them wanting to publicly confess Christ as Lord the pastors tried to talk them out of it. They explained: A public confession would get that person killed, thrown into prison, beaten up, and could cost him his job and his family. After explaining the downside, they would ask "do you still want to do this?"

    If they said yes, the figured that it was a valid conversion. Even so, he would be placed under two years probation and be discipled before being given any kind of responsibility in the church.

    By the way, they didn't do invitations. When I asked why, one pastor told me, "we believe that when the Spirit of God stirs someone's heart, it's not necessary to create an atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit can work. He is sovereign. Further, we have found that when the Spirit stirs a heart, we don't have to beg. He will seek us out."

    Ah, you say, they don't do invitations. They must be Calvinists. Nope, not necessarily.

    Mission trips can mess with your mind, and definitely get you out of your comfort level.
     
    #8 Tom Butler, Feb 8, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 8, 2011
  9. just-want-peace

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    To Costa Rica in '81, and Taiwan in '99- both really life changing.

    I s'pose I was awed most by the one to Taiwan, seeing a culture that literally worshiped idols.

    It's one thing to hear/read about "idol worship" and a totally 'nother thing to experience that culture first hand.
     
  10. rbell

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    I think your input is invaluable.

    Here's the points interacting with yours:

    • Part of the Mission Trip Experience is for Missionaries to be blessed. Their families as well. And for the "target audience" to be witnessed to, served, loved on, etc. We must do our best as churches that go to help our folks understand how we may do the above things.
    • Part of the Mission Trip Experience is to light a fire under folks who go. Many missionaries acquire their passion for missions, or for certain people groups, because of MT's. I personally know of over 20 missionaries through the years that I have taken on MT's who are now serving in some sort of missons capacity. That's where the "seed" was planted. Do they always get it right early on? Nope. Does their enthusiasm sometimes outpace their wisdom or common sense? Yep. And I know that's tough...but remember, missionaries: You're also training the next generation to step into the field. Part of the cost. Same reason I put up with 7th grade boys that stink... :D
    • I'm not as much of a fan of groups going that aren't under the umbrella of a church. I'm OK with several church groups going together...but there's an aspect of accountability and such that the local church can help provide.
    • Churches: Don't take immature Christians on these trips...and don't send them out unprepared! Do your homework. Have meetings. Expect effort. Make them prepare. If not, forbid them to go. That will solve a good bit of the "bad" and "ugly" that John describes above, IMHO.
     
  11. John of Japan

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    Excellent attitude in your first and second points. This is what a missionary wants to hear, especially young people being inspired and called to be missionaries through missionary trips.

    On the point about mission trips being under the umbrella of local churches, I agree. That makes for a direct ling of accountability.

    On your last point about not taking immature Christians, that's a definite yes. Alas, sometimes "mature" Christians can be the problem.

    Another point, please don't criticize the missionary afterwards. If you don't know the culture intimately you haven't a clue what he is doing. I remember a Bible college student who came over on a short term missions trip. Afterwards she strongly criticized the missionary's discipleship efforts to me by email. Of course I defended the missionary. He was doing about what I would be doing! Can you imagine that, a girl about 20 criticizing the methods of a missionary who had been on the field for about 35 years in a culture she knew little about?
     
  12. HankD

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    John, though not a foreign land missionary, I always strive to look for a kernal of truth in any criticism.

    Those of us who pray and give from home rather than pray and go abroad have the very same problem here.

    But how true, so often the criticism is without merit and a challenge to one's patience.

    You are in my prayers.

    Matthew 9
    37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
    38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.​

    HankD​
     
  13. preachinjesus

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    Short term mission trips are an essential aspect of our overall church strategy. We love short term mission trips.

    Now we just don't send people on them without any assistance or training. In fact to go on an international short term trip you have to have completed a local missions activity and our two day cross cultural training program. We have tried as hard as possible to develop a robust short term missions strategy that enlists, equips, and enables trips that impact both the people going and the people being served.

    I don't understand the churches that send over glorified (or sanctified?) subsidized vacations. Seems a waste of resources.

    The churches that do short term trips well are usually the ones with a specific strategy in place to help guide people through the process. Just packing everyone on a plane and sending them to Africa for a week usually doesn't accomplish much.

    One of the ways we stay intentional about our missions strategy is by a) keeping our vision in front of people, b) always talking about how missions is every day not just a special trip every other year, c) having specific requirements in place and sticking to them when it comes to trips, and d) celebrating our trips when they return.

    Short term missions trips are essential for a growing and reaching church. We happily send our teens and adults on trips internationally every year. We believe that to stay on mission is the most essential task that can we do as a staff. Our short term projects have helped raise up people from our body who are now in full time vocational ministry or full time missions work. Thats a win in our book. :)
     
  14. rbell

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    Though we don't go international every year, we do more of an "acts 1:8" rotation (mostly), and over the course of several years, do several settings.

    I'll put it this way, adding to PiJ's post: You're given a sum of money. Do you spend it on today's needs? Or invest it for future needs? Of course it depends...but likely, for most, a mixture of both is wise.

    Giving to missionaries is spending for today's needs. Neglecting the immediate isn't usually that wise. (Of course, they're investing in the future as well, but this is my analogy, so leave it alone!! :D :D)

    Taking, let's say, young adults on trips is an investment for the future.

    Like I say...big and good room for both/and.
     
  15. John of Japan

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    Thanks brother. :wavey:
     
  16. rbell

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    Most basic questions, to me:

    • A confirmation from God: Does He want us to go to ?
    • Do we have the time to invest in preparation? Take a group that's ready...especially in difficult circumstances! You can seldom do that in two weeks of frantic prep time. And I'm talking about bigger matters than airline flights (though those do matter...).
    • Can we do any good there? If we're simply going to hinder the missionary's work, get in the way, or there's not enough to do to justify the time/trip/expense...nope.
    • Are we neglecting an urgent and higher priority here in our area to go? (Key word: "Urgent and higher"). For instance, I doubt most Louisianans did much foreign mission work post-Katrina.
    • Are we taking the right folks? (Do they have the maturity to serve as God calls? Do they understand this trip isn't about them? Are they willing to be teachable and humble? Can we work with them as needed?
    • Are we working with the right folks? Is the missionary physically, spiritually, and emotionally able to handle what's involved to get done what must be done? Can they work with us as needed?
    • Is God working the details out? (This one has lots of caveats; I think you'll understand even though I'm not going to try and list them all...sometimes God tells us to move despite circumstances, and other times He uses them to guide us. Wisdom and careful searching of Him in the process.)
     
  17. Alcott

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    Our church sponsors several of these yearly, and we have a few couples who have committed to stay for 2 or 3 years in a country. I have still never been a part of one, though. There is one persuasive man (whose name might be known to some on here) who is continually traveling in regard to these endeavors, who has 'drafted' quite a few people to go who say they never thought they would. He has tried that on me, too, but... well, some of us are more restistant to persuasion.

    One thing that concerns me about it is that we (or at least I) seldom hear anything negative from those returning. By what is in this thread so far, it confirms that short-term missions are filled with difficulties, misunderstandings, lack of a serious approach, et al; but it doesn't seem to be mentioned, which to a skeptic like me indicates a lot of things are swept under the rug. But I've read instances of one youth group, for example, going to paint a new building, not having been told that a previous group had painted it just a few weeks before. So it's hard to not get the idea that hypocrisy is involved in this, too; as if letting the people think they are really doing something important helps keep the whole church/mission structure going And maybe that's a big reason I don't hear of the problems and misapprehensions there are bound to be there with going to a different culture and the travel (which can be enough trouble itself), food & lodging (eat what they eat, no matter how repulsive, or be a hotel snob 'serving' those who live one-room dirt floor shacks), and over- and under-expectations, frustrations,...
     
  18. Dr. Bob

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    THANK YOU to all who have shared - lots of good reading on the thread already.
     
  19. North Carolina Tentmaker

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    Nice thread guys, why can’t we always get along like this on other discussions?

    Anyway, I have participated in several of these and think short term trips can be great if they are done correctly. As noted, some can be a nightmare.

    I often doubt the amount of “good” done by sort term construction projects. If you goal is to travel to the mission field and build a building or do other construction that is not a very cost effective way of building. Cash in your ticket and send them the money, then they can hire local professionals who might be better carpenters than your church group. But of course as others have mentioned the largest benefit for a trip like this is in the hearts of the visitors and their long term commitment to missions.

    Then there is the witness aspect. I have asked from the pulpit on several occasions, How can someone be a more affective witness thousands of miles away to people who don’t even speak their language, than they can to their own family and neighbors? Could it be because our family and neighbors know us? If you are a more affective witness to a stranger than to those who know you, it says something about how you live your life.

    I have had several young people over the years who expressed a heart for missions and wanted to go on trips, but I told them they first needed to be an affective witness at home. If they could not do that, then they had other problems to deal with before heading overseas.
     
  20. annsni

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    Well, thinking of our ministry to Cuba, there are not many skilled construction people there and materials are VERY hard to come by. Additionally, good tools are hard to come by as well. So we've brought down whatever we can including table saws, drills, nails, other hardware, etc. We just count on them for cement and lumber - and then we teach them how to build. So in this case, it's actually better for us to send a team down there. But in addition to that, we also train the local pastors in ministry and that's invaluable. :)
     

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