Tuesday, July 19, 2011
My thoughts on short-term missions
A dear sweet friend of mine I met in Costa Rica writes a blog. Now, many people "write" blogs, but she shares her heart and Christian experience as a full-time missionary in Costa Rica from a very practical and different perspective. It's hard, sometimes, to be honest in a blog. I'm just going to say it. We want our supporters to hear about what we are doing, share in our experiences, but not hear about the difficulties. The hard times. The completely frustrating days (talk to my husband about last Friday...it was one of those days). She shares her heart. Her name is Jamie, and her blog is The Very Worst Missionary. Go check her out and let me know what you think. Recently she has written two blogs on short-term teams and as we are in the middle of our short-term teams, it seemed appropriate to write my own version.
There are a boat load of books written about short-term teams. Their impact on the community they serve; and the people who are going. Some of my favorites: Go and Make Disciples by Roger Greenway, Let the Nations be Glad by John Piper, On Being a Missionary by Thomas Hale. Another book to read, take into consideration, but know that I have many "issues" with, that I think is VERY one-sided but I think is definitely food for thought, but about half of the book I would disagree with is called When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.
That being said, I would love to share some personal thoughts about working in a short-term capacity. Romans 10:14-15 is by far my favorite missions verses: 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
How do I pray for teams coming? I pray that their lives would be changed. That they would be ever outward looking. That they would impact lives. They would love on people. They would be blessed by those they have come to serve. That they would be stretched. I pray that things don't always go well. I pray for some discomfort - hot; lost bags; broken down cars; supplies not arriving; cold showers; uncomfortable because you have to throw your toilet paper in the trash not in the toilet; food not what they like; "only" eating PB&J's for a week; working late; not working at all; not drinking the water; sleeping 10 to a room. You get the idea. I truly pray for these things - why?! It's so easy to become accustomed to the comfort creatures in life. How cushy we live. How self-centered most of us are (you notice I included myself in that statement). And yet, we go on a trip, for only a week, or two, and complain a whole lot! We enter into the lives of people that live this life every day. We live it for a week. How many of us could have lived in the wilderness and eaten locusts for dinner? How many could have been like Jesus and gone into the desert on faith alone knowing He would be cared for? How many of us truly and honestly, have a motivation to reach out to others from our heart, and not a desire to feel good about it? To be loving and caring when we aren't being observed? To show kindness and mercy without having pictures taken of us? Now I love pictures - don't get me wrong - I love taking those precious faces home with me and love on them again in my heart and present them to God in my prayers.
So my question to you - what is your motivation for going on a short-term trip? In the book On Being a Missionary, Hale makes the statement - "Being a missionary begins with being called. You don't choose to be a missionary; you're called to be one. The only choice is whether to obey." There are so many people who, in their heart, believe they are called to missions. The come to the field, but end up leaving the field disheartened, discouraged, and not having accomplished much of anything. I call this a "heart call". In your heart you feel led, and yet, I don't feel that God has called you to this purpose. Does that mean being a missionary that has been truly called is a missionary that "makes things happen?" Plant 10 churches, see 100 people saved, build a school? No...it means being obedient to the one who sent you. Having an open heart to go where God calls. To stumble when we stray from His path. To pray for opportunities that you may not want. Bottom line - to be obedient. Realize that 25 gringos in a village of 3,000 Hondurans is quite a spectacle. It can't help but be otherwise. But I pray that you look at how you present yourself. Are you putting on a show, or showing your love to others? Are you feeling good about what you are doing, or feeling the hearts and hardships of those you have come to serve? Are you staring in awe about how "the poor people live" in their dirty rotting home or rejoicing in their eternal home? Search your heart for your motivation - come open - come prepared to serve - come without an agenda - come and be love - the love that comes by serving our great and awesome God. The Jesus that loved the poor more than the rich, the Jesus that showed mercy and kindness without bringing a single dollar, the Jesus that loved the little children. Be that kind of missionary. See how God will stretch you, love you, break you, and use you.