I love short-term mission trips. I’m a big believer in them. As a pastor, I believe they are a powerful way to help people grow and mature as believers. As a believer, I have experienced that growth and maturing for myself.
Here are just four of many reasons why I believe we should all take a short-term mission trip:
We learn about other cultures.
It’s a big, diverse, amazing world we live in. Trouble is, too many of us don’t actually live in it. We live in a small world surrounded only by what’s familiar and immediately understood. Too much time there makes us weakly comfortable, even sedate, and leaves us narrowly myopic, even prejudiced. This should be avoided by anyone at all costs, especially by followers of Jesus.
It has been my experience that my time in other cultures helps me see my own with a sharper perspective. Sometimes that means I see even more clearly aspects of my culture that are robust and virtuous. At other times that means I become more aware of those aspects that are shallow and bland.
Both make me a more thoughtful student of my culture, something we all do well to be.
We encounter poverty.
Most of the time, and especially if you are from the West, your mission will expose you to those enduring a lower standard of living than your own, perhaps much lower. Speaking as an American Christian, I believe we need this exposure desperately. Our relative affluence is a spiritual handicap for us.
It is far too easy for us to rely on ourselves or our wealth instead of God. It is far too easy for us to forget just how poor most of the world’s population is, and to forget our biblical responsibility to them (see Matthew 25:34-40 and James 1:27 for starters).
I don’t mean we should set out on a short-term mission trip so we can “take a tour” of how the rest of the world lives. Rather, we should let ourselves be jarred by the daily realities of real people’s lives. As we work with individuals and connect with them, we’ll find we have much to learn from them. And we must ask the Lord to fill us with His compassion.
We gain unforgettable experiences.
I will remember forever the moment during my most recent mission when I stood in a classroom in rural Kenya surrounded by 20 tribal pastors as they were about to ceremoniously give me Maasai name.
Nor can I forget hiking through the Panamanian jungle to reach a Choco Indian village atop a high hill, sleeping (or not sleeping) in an open-walled hut, and watching from above the jungle canopy a distant storm pass by.
And I can still see clearly Thai people bowing in a Buddhist temple and can still feel my heart breaking for them.
Our lives are enriched by such experiences. They change us for good.
We grow as disciples.
There’s nothing like obeying Jesus to help us develop as His followers. In His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) He certainly directs His followers to “go into all the world.” And without a doubt, for most of us going on a short-term mission trip stretches our faith as it sends us into the unknown and uncomfortable.
The whole experience is like super-mega-vitamins for our spiritual vitality. There’s really nothing else quite like it.
What if I can’t go?
There’s no condemnation intended in this post. :) Perhaps your health or season of family life or current work situation makes a short-term mission for you logistically not possible–at least for now. You can still send others by supporting them with finances and prayers, and then being a student of their experiences when they return.
Do you have a sort-term mission trip planned for 2012? If so, I’d love to hear where. If not, how could we make that happen?