Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Rethinking Short Term Missions: Long Term Thinking

America has experienced a high percentage of unemployment these past few years. Those in construction have been hit especially hard.

Follow me with this scenario:
You’re a construction worker, highly skilled in building and carpentry. You haven’t had work in over a year and you have no idea how you’ll put the next meal on your family’s table. You find out through your church that a group of Christians from England are coming to your area to help those struggling. They plan to help your area by building a home and painting walls.

What’s your response to this?

Mine would be: “Why would these people spend all this money on flights, hotel, food and more to do something that I’m more than capable to do, especially when I could use that money to feed my family?”

Hmm, I wonder how many others have asked that same question…

So, to this I pose the question: why are we raising thousands upon thousands of dollars to go overseas and do something that the people there are more than qualified to do?

Remember: I am all about short term missions. But it must be thought through carefully. In light of Amy Carmichael’s weighty post before, we can see that missions is very important and should not be taken lightly.

Let me say what I see as a very important factor:

Short term missions should be a part of the long term goals on the field.

If you go and do a short term project, the effect of your visit will last as long as your time in the country. If you go and partner with those doing long term work there, then the effect of your visit will last much longer. 

While short term trips can have a positive long term effect, they can also have a negative one. Ill prepared teams can hinder or break established relationships.

I’ve often heard, “I don’t know what I’m good at so I thought I’d just go and do (insert random task)”. You are more qualified than what you think. You should be using the gifts and talents that God has given you.

When I had people visit me in Uganda, I was passionate about using the gifts that God had given them to be a part of what we were already doing. That way, the effect of what they did in two weeks would last far beyond their visit.

Example: My brother has a business degree and owns his own business. He taught the widows in our jewelry project business skills that they could use in their every day life.

With that in mind, what kind of questions should be answered?

Before you plan your trip, ask such questions as these:
Are there long term missionaries on the field? If so, how can we partner with them? What do they see as the need? What are the gifts and talents of those on the team? Do they match up with what the need is? If so, how can the team maximize the time on the field to help the long term effort? If not, how can we rethink our trip to utilize these? Do we need to look at a different country where our gifts and talents match up?

What other questions do you think should be asked before one detail is planned?

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