Short term mission trips: what not to do

Natalie Brassfield, Contributing Columnist

Many of us know of someone who has been to some obscure country for a week or so on a short-term mission trip.

During summers especially, it always seems as though someone is raising money to go to Kenya or asking for prayer about their upcoming trip to Peru.

Short-term missions take a group of people to a foreign country, where they usually work in a variety of ways in a “village” while presenting the Gospel of Jesus to the people living there.

At a glance, short-term mission trips immediately sound like a worthy use of both someone’s time and their money.

On these trips, the short-term missionaries are able to serve and witness to a vast number of people in the span of a couple of weeks, or sometimes just a few days.

It would be ridiculous to say that these trips aren’t helpful or beneficial for some people.

However, there are several things that most people don’t think to consider before packing their bags and heading out on an exciting adventure for Jesus.

Team members on short-term missions often go to different places the next time they do missions.

This leaves the people who were previously visited without continuous discipleship.

Since the people being aided are given so much information about the gospel in such a little amount of time, they can also experience this “spiritual high” that the team members do.

However, when the teams don’t return to continue to help, it can hurt the very people they worked for.

In my personal experience, I’ve known kids who wait for months for their “gringo” friends to return and help them again; but they often don’t come back.

While short term mission teams do go places with the intentions of helping, they often don’t research the needs of the specific area they are ministering in.

It becomes easy for teams to have ideas of what they want to do long before they visit the country they’re traveling to, and their ideas aren’t relevant to the issues at hand in that country.

After coming home from a short-term mission trip, people are usually excited to tell everyone they know about all of the stories they were a part of while they were away.

The few days, sometimes weeks, after being back from a mission trip often has people left on a sort of “spiritual high,” wanting to witness to everyone in their hometown and make a difference where they are.

Sadly, it’s too-often true that this feeling quickly wears off, and people return to their normal lives easily enough.

The problem with this is that it leaves people wondering why they can’t continue to feel “on fire” for the Lord the way they did right after their trip.

It can sometimes cause people to depend on these short term mission trips to bring them closer to God.

In order to keep these negative results away from an idea that started with such good intentions, there are several things that should be done.

First, contacting long-term missionaries in the area the team is going to and working with the missionaries could help the local people greatly.

This way, the missionaries who stay there permanently can continue to disciple the people who have been ministered to.

Secondly, researching the needs of the country, and more specifically, the area of that country, is extremely important.

This way, resources aren’t being wasted and the people are actually benefitting from the help they’re receiving.

Lastly, before jumping up eagerly to pack for a couple of weeks of adventure in an exotic country, seriously pray about the trip.

Realize that, yes, God may use this trip to touch your heart and speak to you, but your fulfilment can only come through Christ Himself.

If you are going on a short-term mission trip to find some sort of purpose, remember that God has commanded us to witness everywhere we go.

If you’re not willing to do that where you are, right now, the feeling may not change after trying to do it somewhere else where you feel more comfortable.

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