In my life I have been on more mission trips than I can count, my shortest trip only being 9 days and my longest being over 11 months, they have taken me to the green hills of Ireland, the primitive jungles of Papua New Guinea and the vivacious culture of Latin America. At the age of 24 I have seen more than my fair share of the world, 30 different countries over 10 years, and I find myself absolutely, undeniably, irrevocably changed.
There is a lot of talk today about whether short-term missions are worth it. They say that no one can create lasting change over the span of a week, or a month. Some would argue that people go on short-term missions to see the world instead of really helping the people. Others would argue that it is a waste of money to support these ordinary people- teenagers, families, your everyday Joe Schmo – because they do not have the qualifications to build a house or teach english.
You’re probably thinking of several arguments that I have neglected as you read this, reasons why you don’t go on mission trips or choose to support a friend or family member who has decided to go.
And I am here to say that short-term mission trips are worth it all. They are absolutely worth your $25 and your prayers.
It is my belief that short-term missions actually change the world and here is why.
1. Short-term missions are incredibly encouraging to the people you minister to.
I want you to think about Christmas for a little bit, that time of year when friends and family travel great distances to give to one another. There is something so rich about having family gathered in one place- laughing, celebrating, crying and living together- even if only for a short period of time.
I believe it is kind of the same thing with short-term missions, the family of God traveling great distances to spend time with and to serve one another. You get the opportunity to live as family for a time, to encourage one another and it changes you. When it comes time to part ways there isn’t a dry eye to be seen and you find yourself wiping off sloppy wet kisses from every grandma in a five-mile radius. And they all have the same thing to say, “Thank you, you have greatly encouraged us.”
2. Short-term missions build relationships that break down cultural and racial barriers.
Stereo-types about other countries are rampant in today’s culture, the images we see on TV usually only communicate the most sensational part of a culture. For example, if we base what we believe of Mexicans off of what the news shows us then we have reason to believe that everyone in Mexico is a violent drug-lord.
Whereas short-term missions teams would go down there and learn that there is a lot more the Mexico than what we hear in America. They actively build relationships with a person of a different culture and learn that they have far more in common than they had ever thought. When they hear the term Mexico now they no longer think of violence and drugs but of people who have now become family. This change leads them to become more aware of how they treat different cultures and races. Before you know it America has just become more united, these people no longer identify themselves by their skin color and choose to identify themselves with how well they love others.
3. Short-term missions open your eyes to blessings and privileges.
In America we live a life of an excess by the world’s standards, don’t believe me? Try traveling to Africa or Asia and be awakened to how much you truly have. When you live with women who are forced to sell their bodies just to feed their children or make friends with whole families who live in a shack made of trash they found in the local dump, your definition of “need” changes. Things that used to be a big deal like the newest iphone don’t really matter anymore. It gives you a new perspective on what really matters.
4. Short-term missions change you forever and it affects the way you live.
There is a belief out there that people don’t change, once a liar always a liar. That is a belief that I disagree with whole-heartily, people do change. I am, perhaps, one of the greatest examples of that.
Think about events like 9/11, it was a tragedy that was a defining moment for America, it changed us. It changed our laws, our views, our politics. No one would argue that America is the same after that sad day.
When you go on short-term mission trips you are given defining moments like that.
For me it was five years ago on a beach in Thailand, earlier that week I saw a man who was literally skin and bones dying on the floor of his family’s concrete hut, flies swarmed around him and he smelled and looked like death. We prayed over him and believed for healing but he died several days later. I remember talking to God as the waves rolled upon the shore, mad at him for not healing that man, but eternally grateful at the same time for everything he had given me. It was in that moment that I decided to stop living for myself and use my “privilege” to change the world, to make it so scenes like that didn’t have to happen as often.
I started living for the glory of God and because of that the world around me has become a better place, children have been fed, the naked have been clothed and the lonely have been loved.
And it’s not just me, I could give you the names of literally thousands who have been forever changed from what they experienced on a short-term trip. I bet if you looked at the modern heroes of Christianity they could tell you a point in time where their life changed forever, and I am betting it was on a mission trip.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~Margaret Mead