Why does the world need short-term mission teams? The world is a big place, yet today it can seem smaller because of technology. If interested, we can find information on any subject in a matter of seconds with a Google search. Once having received the information, we may assume we have a deep understanding of a subject.
Serving overseas in a culture much different from my own, I have found that it is not until my feet were planted in a location that I began to have a better understanding of life and missions. No Google search or even stories from others who have already served in this region could have prepared me for what life is like across the globe. There are things that I have loved and cherished about living overseas, and things that have been very difficult. Most importantly, I have learned about the richness of diversity and how God is at work everywhere.
I have found when we walk on the same ground as our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world walk, share the same climate, experience new tastes and foods (even, at times, trying things like bugs and realizing they actually have a nutty taste and are excellent sources of protein), we begin to experience the world in a different way. It is in hearing conversations in another language, seeing how people dress and act, experiencing worship, participating in family celebrations, and “doing life” with others that we can appreciate those not like us.
We can begin to recognize the richness of life in different places and forms and maybe develop more of an appreciation for things we have taken for granted in our lives. We may recognize that although people are different, we are all alike. Human beings are each built with the capacity to love and the need to be loved and connected. Our worldview has expanded from living in Thailand.
When we are placed in unfamiliar or unique circumstances, such as a mission experiences, we find ourselves more dependent upon God. Many long-term missionaries who have answered the call to serve the Lord on the field are called out of short-term missions. It is in this exchange of getting out of our comfort zones and life as we know it that God can often open our hearts and minds to what he is doing and how we can join Him. We expand our limited view of the world and everything opens up as a possibility. We recognize that many have not yet heard the gospel and we are commanded to go out and be Jesus’ disciples to bring His name to every tribe and nation with the promise that He will be with us.
The world needs short-term teams to open minds and hearts to what He is doing and how we can all be a part of that, whether we end up serving across the world, in our neighborhood, or at our campus. Getting outside of our normal lives and trusting the Lord to open our hearts and minds to His work can be an unforgettable, life-changing event. We could consider short-term mission trips as cultural exchanges, going as learners, anticipating God to show up in mighty ways, instead of as teams going out to “do something” for God or to make life better for people in another place. Although this can be the case, the idea that we go out to exchange our lives, where both the one going and the one receiving benefit from learning about each other, loving each other, and exchanging the love of Christ seems to be a better representation of what mission is about.
So why does the global church need short-term mission teams? Because God loves each of his children equally and he wants our hearts to be broken for those who are hurting. He commands us to make disciples of all nations. Short-term experiences can create unique opportunities where God can open our minds and hearts so that we can better know Him and his call upon our lives. Those experiences connect us with his children and grow us in the process. God has asked us to join him on His mission every day, not just on short-term experiences, but it might be a good start.
Pam serves as a cross-cultural witness in Thailand.