Day #8 was a physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting day for the team as we visited and ministered to people in La Isleta, Las Lomas and Bambu. Our day included everything from feeding the hungry and giving water to the thirsty, to preaching the Gospel and praying for people. I will give you a full report of the day tomorrow, but in the meantime, I thought I would share just a couple of photos from today to tide you over until then.
I encourage you to take the time to read through this teaching from our host missionary and pastor John Overholt’s newest book: Short Term Missions: Long Term Impact. It explains so well why I, as a pastor, value short term mission trips…
Benefits to the team members going:
1. Cultural perspective: Since much of our Christianity is largely defined by our culture, it is hard for us to discern between culture and true Christianity. Having the opportunity to minister outside of our country or even outside of our own neighborhoods helps us to discern the difference between the two. We have much to learn from other cultures. Mexicans, for example, have taught me a lot about hospitality. The term “Mi casa es su casa.” (My house is your house) is a genuine, heartfelt expression in Mexican society.
2. Appreciation for what we have: Sometimes we do not appreciate what we have until it is taken away. Walking into a migrant worker’s camp where there is no electricity, flush toilets or clean water, and the average family sleeps, together, on wooden pallets for a bed, has made me appreciate the comforts of my Canadian home. I can flick a switch on the wall for light, drink clean tap water, and sleep on my Sears posturepedic pillow top bed.
Short-term trip participants relocated to a foreign culture have the opportunity to undergo disorientation and realize life “back home” is not as rough or difficult as they may have thought; and the world is much larger than their hometown. The starting line of understanding the vastness of the world may turn into the beginning of comprehending the depth of our God.
3. Relationships established amongst the team members: A coffee break during a Sunday morning church service may offer an opportunity for relationship building, but becomes minimal in comparison to the close knit ties that can be formed during a two week mission trip.
4. Opens their eyes to the mission field: My Short Term Mission experience was the spark that ignited me to pursue the call to missions.
5. It has been the catalyst for some to pursue longer term mission assignments. We have had two couples from our church in Canada, Bill and Christina Clark, and Joel and Sally Frostad, who became involved on a full time basis: Joel and Sally for over eleven years.
Seventy-five percent of people surveyed who have participated in short-term trips said they were “life-changing,” according to October 2008 mission statistics collected by the Barna Group. Twenty-five percent said their short-term mission experience increased their awareness of other people’s struggles; 16 percent said it helped them gain knowledge about poverty, justice or the world; 11 percent said it increased their level of compassion; 9 percent said it enhanced their faith; another 9 percent said it expanded their spiritual understanding and 5 percent said it escalated their financial generosity.
Benefits to the local church:
1. A local church that consistently sends out Short Term Mission teams gives opportunity for their members to reach out beyond the borders of their own community.
2. Our mission trips include a three month preparation time plus the trip itself. This lends itself to the deepening of relationships among the team members that continue beyond the actual outreach into the life of the church.
3. The congregation becomes for more supportive of the local church’s mission vision.
4. Those who have a short term evangelistic experience outside of their own culture are more likely to gain a burden and a vision to minister at home. I have observed that members from my congregation, who have been on a Short Term Mission trip, tend to be more actively involved in local outreach initiatives than those who have not experienced a mission’s encounter.
Benefits to the local churches who receive teams:
1. The zeal and enthusiasm of a STM team can be an encouragement to the local church members. The vision for mission and outreach can be stirred up so that when a STM team leaves, the church will continue to reach out to their community and beyond.
2. Just as our own STM teams learn cultural perspectives, the churches receiving teams can also learn from their visitors.
3. Long standing relationships and partnerships can be established and developed. Over the years we developed a strong Mexico-Canada connection between our Coastland’s Foursquare district and many local Tijuana congregations. A church from Beausejour, Manitoba has sent teams from Canada over a three year period and have developed close ties especially with members from our church in Filadelfia. They plan to make Costa Rica a focus for their missions program and are looking at sending future teams to partner with us.
4. Just as Jesus was not well received in His own home town, a foreign team coming in to minister seems to cause people to take notice and listen more carefully.
5. Local host churches can also receive sound discipleship teaching from STM leaders that will help the church to grow spiritually.
6. The evangelistic efforts of a STM team can add new members to the congregation.
7. There are many practical areas of help, such as building renovations that can benefit host churches.
Benefits to the local community involved:
1. People get saved, healed and delivered.
2. A new local church can be planted. This happened on our very first Tijuana outreach. Our team of ten ventured into a Colonia called Guycura, where we proceeded to hold an open air meeting on an empty lot. About one hundred people bowed the knee to Jesus that day in March of 1988. As our team joined hands in a circle together with the new converts, I felt impressed to pray that God would raise up a church on this very land that we were standing. Within one year a church building was erected on that property. The young congregation not only had a building but also a pastor who was appointed from the Foursquare Bible Institute in Tijuana. That church continues to thrive today, 25 years later.
3. People hear the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Benefits to the Lord Himself:
1. We bring joy to the Lord of the harvest as He sees His children obeying the call to go and make disciples.
2. We bring relief to the heartache of God as people are transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of Heaven.
3. We bless the heart of God as He sees nations in unity, partnering together in missions.