Why We Believe in Short-Term Missions
“I prefer short-term missionaries,” says Kalli, one of our girls when she was asked if short-term missions is beneficial at the girls home, “because they spend one-on-one time with us. They pour into us without expecting anything in return.”
Some people hate short-term missions:
“Short term missions trips are not a good use of money if the end goal is actually to do good work and to help people.”
-Jennifer Miller (Why I Hate Short Term Missions)
Some people think short-term missions shouldn’t exist:
“Short-term missions is fraught with problems, and many wish such trips did not exist…”
–Darren Carlson (Why You Should Consider Canceling your Short-Term Missions Trip)
Some people think short-term missions are a waste of money and time:
“This trip is mostly a waste of everyone’s time and money”
-Noel Becchetti, (Why Most Mission Trips are a Waste of Time)
Some people believe short-term missions are not successful:
“Contrary to popular belief, most missions trips and service projects do not: empower those being served, engender healthy cross-cultural relationships, improve quality of live, relieve poverty, change the lives of participants [or] increase support for long-term missions work.”
-Author of Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton
SO… Why do we believe in short-term missions?
Because we believe a big God who is not bound by time. We love short-term missions because we’ve seen the Kingdom impacts. Some people argue that there should only be long-term missions. We believe there’s a time and place for both. But what’s the best long-term mission you could do? “Go home and love your family,” says Mother Teresa.
God doesn’t need a two-year commitment, a one-year internship, or even a two-month mission trip. God can use one week, even one day to change someone’s life forever. One day is worth it. Don’t believe me? Read on. I’ve seen the power of one. Even one person is worth your finances and time. You can’t put a money price on someone’s heart and soul. God is not concerned about time nor money; He’s concerned about relationship.
Of course, we also acknowledge there are short-term mission groups or individuals who just don’t get it: they use God as an excuse to feel good about traveling and serving, they are focused on doing not learning, or they give handouts instead of handshakes. But even then, are we so frail to think God cannot redeem our weaknesses, our ignorance? Does helping hurt? I’ll let God be the judge of that, not me. I certainly agree with many people’s opinions of how short-term missions can be destructive if not done right; however, I, in no way shape or form, desire to judge someone else’s efforts. Why waste time doing that when I can be lifting up prayers to a God who turns ashes into crowns?
I recently returned from a reunion with my first missions team. I met this team of 20 in June 2008 through Adventures in Missions, and we traveled to Swaziland, Africa together. Last weekend, after EIGHT years, we had a team reunion (and it wasn’t our first nor last!) in Colorado. If people truly believe that short-term missions shouldn’t exist, it’s a waste of time and money, and it isn’t successful then – wow – people are missing out! As a team we reminisced about our summer, and you know what? When we asked one another what was most memorable about our trip, do you know how most people responded? It was intimate personal moments with the individual and God. Because short term missions isn’t about us: it’s about God. My teammate Staci, on that very trip eight years ago, told me this quote I have never forgotten: “It’s not about who we are in Christ; it’s about who Christ is in us.” Did we remember saving someone’s life and changing the world or even all the service projects we did? Did we say, “Wow, we were awesome and did so much work!” No, we said, “Wow, look at the relationships formed and what God has done since then.”
Since then. In 2008, one woman “randomly” (but not) applied to a short-term missions trip. Once in Swaziland, God captivated that woman’s heart for one 12-year-old girl. One letter shared between the woman and child started a bond that started a dream. Later, one man met that one woman for one coffee date; and with one dream, they started one non-profit: Hosea’s Heart. And the woman now? I live as a life-long missionary on the field and encourage short-term missionaries, who also refresh me personally. You see, everything starts small, everything starts with one. Why try to put a limit on God by counting out short-term trips?
I’ve personally seen the impact that one volunteer can have on our girls in the home. Giving a girl confidence to sing, encouraging another one not to give up, teaching a girl to read, tutoring a girl so she passes her test. Even though the volunteers weren’t here long enough to see the fruits of their labor, they planted a seed that God could grow. That’s what short term missions is about. People willing to plant a seed or water what’s already been planted. As Paul tells us,
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)
Only God causes growth. So if we are going to criticize short-term missions, let’s just criticize all missions, let’s criticize all humanitarian efforts or governmental programs, and then maybe we will all realize we don’t have the perfect answers either.
But God knows. God grows.