I love the moments when I look around a table and find myself thinking, ‘I am so incredibly blessed to be able to serve with these people.’ Our Haiti team leaves in about a month, and we have a strong team on all fronts. We have laughter. We have strength. We have experience. We have desire to do more than just put up walls…we seek to make friends, create relationships…and see where it goes. I’m waiting for the moment when one of them looks at me and says, ‘I want to come back here, because of this kid or this connection I have with this person. And what if we…’
I had a translator once in Russia that went above and beyond just translating…but it was because we had become great friends over several years. Who knows what God has in store for us in Haiti? I do pray that he is already preparing some great people we will connect with in Mellier.
But…’the’ debate…short-term verses long-term mission trips…if you haven’t heard a whisper of the debate that has gone on for years, here’s the basic gist. The short-term critique is folks spending a lot of money, jumping in to ‘fix’ something to their American standards, dumping whatever they think the community ‘needs’ and then leaving again to never come back…however, going home with great photos and stories of third world ‘suffering,’ (consider those ‘air’ quotes…). That is normally the negative side, the realistic side is not many people have the time to do that…and if we say it’s all bad, what about those God wants to use and the people that could be drawn to the Kingdom of God?
The long-term side is normally people who feel a deep call to mission in particular communities…anywhere from urban America to Africa, from Brazil to China, etc. They put roots down in the community and stay for years, raising families in that community, letting their lives be proof of God’s love…over a long period of time. Not something you can do in 8 days. I don’t think many folks argue that long-term is bad…there are just bad ways to do long-term that hurt the community they are trying to help.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do in the international mission field is checking your American culture at the door before you leave. If your plan is to move people away from the ‘dark side’ and bring them into an American viewpoint and structure, you should probably stay home.
Both sides of the notorious debate have positives and negatives. That being said, I am well acquainted with both, mostly by people who like to critique short-term missions that I participate in…and lead, which means I have given this a lot of thought if I am committed to taking other people with me.
All that being said…here’s where I stand. I am well-aware, trust me, on how much money short-term missions throw out into the world when a community could be using it for something they need. These decisions take a lot of time, and honestly…calling…if you are not sure what that means…let’s talk.
I believe in the world not being near as large as it used to be, and I believe that God pulls people he has built to do well in other cultures to go love others across borders. It used to take months for missionaries to hop borders…now it takes mere hours.
Even more, I believe that developing relationships over time in short bursts truly allows God to work, and that is something I have learned over 9 years. I wholeheartedly disagree with going in once, doing whatever and never going back. I think it is a complete disservice to the Gospel, and those you are ‘serving.’ The times I’ve been a part of that it disheartened me so much it is scorched into my memory. Now, if I go somewhere new…you can count on there being more going on than just going on a random trip. I’m looking for new possibilities, new relationships and most of all…God where would you have me?
I do think long-term is the most effective, but not so far as to say all short-term is wrong. I also think that God calls specific people to long-term ministry. I’m intruiged, and champion, those from Africa, China and South America that also make the leap to long-term ministry. Long-term is in no way ‘Western’ specific. Even more so, I champion the folks that move into the urban center and live among their neighbors, or feel called to a refugee group in the US and move to live among them…LOVE IT!
Yet, sometimes, long-term and short-term work hand in hand. Last year, a man who had been a missionary to Nicaragua for 7 years was asked, ‘Would you have preferred support money or their presence to build your ministry?’ His answered, quickly, ‘Their presence, every time, but many churches don’t want to have a presence…it’s easier to throw money at something.’
Listening…if the community doesn’t want you there, or they only want you there for your money…not your friendship and discipleship, you’ve got a problem. You HAVE to listen to what they are saying, what they need and if they even want you there…balanced with, are you going to be making them want material things that are unattainable for them in their economy?
When you find yourself a part of a ministry that is alive and active all year long, staying in touch with those they visit on mission trips, with people they call family and it’s all reciprocated by those they are ministering to…God is doing something there!
In May, I am traveling with a phenomenal group of people, who I know will have connections that make people wonder what the common thread is…I pray people are drawn to that…and that we drawn them to the Kingdom of God. And since you know what I am looking for…you can pray too…