Times have changed when it comes to international missions. It used to be that when an individual felt called to mission work they would raise a small fortune, go off to a foreign land and not return for many years while they served the Lord. The decision to go was life changing and usually permanent. During the years of service they would basically be invisible to the church back in the states, except for an occasional report letter and outbound care package at Christmas.
Today the internet and air travel have made even the most remote parts of the earth accessible to anyone who can come up with the cost of a plane ticket, so awareness of and participation in global mission work is readily available. God still calls people to career missions, but more and more the home church stays connected to the missionary and involved in the work. This is a wonderful development, but we need to understand the positives as well as the possible negatives.
The “GO “mentality here at Quail includes international short term mission trips in which the people of Quail can serve side by side with career missionaries in a foreign culture. The fact is, often that missionary has to alter their ongoing ministry schedule to host the group and spend time coordinating the visit. Also, in order to make these trips happen it takes a lot of money from the people at home. Even though we ask that this be above the tithe, usually there is some diversion of funds, so that in peak mission trips season the home church support suffers. Is it all worth it? My answer is yes!
Here at Quail we do mission trips with our eyes open to the fact that a large aspect of the benefit is the blessing that the participants in the trip receive. Yes, projects are accomplished, yes ministry is done, and yes souls are saved, but we should not fool ourselves into thinking that somehow we can do these things better as we fly there from the States than the local Christians can do as they live in the culture. (We often do not even speak the language!) We do mission trips because people who GO, grow!
Talk to someone who has been on a mission trip and they will tell you how awesome it was to worship with other believers in another language, how humbling it was to see great faith even among impoverished people, how they have a new awareness regarding the need for the Gospel worldwide, and how loving Jesus changes lives on every level. Once people have that experience they are more excited to do kingdom work wherever they are, they are more willing to give financially to the work of the church and the work of the Lord worldwide, and some will feel the call to give their own lives to the Lord for career missions or ministry. The costs are large but the benefits are huge!
The career missionaries on the field also realize that over the long term they will be better prayed for and better supported financially as they increase awareness regarding what life and ministry is like on the field. Thus they are willing to divert energy and time to host groups.
To avoid some of the possible pitfalls we do think through issues in evaluating possible trips.
1. We try not to do work projects that would divert income-producing labor from needy locals.
In cases of manual labor we would rather work with the locals than “instead of” the locals. Most missionaries understand that, thus they hire local people that we assist.
2. We offer a variety of styles of trips to attract a variety of people.
Some of us can work with our hands, others of us desire a more relational focus. Some of us “travel well” others want to start with trips that are closer to home. We get that, thus there is a variety.
3. We seek to work with missionaries who “do trips.”
Some agencies are well practiced and staffed to host group trips. It is part of their plan and process so we are not diverting them from their main kingdom work. Those are the locations we prioritize so as not to be a burden to the career missionary.
4. We plan in some historical/cultural awareness time.
It would be a shame if we travel to a foreign land and do not come back with a greater awareness of the story of that nation and its needs and blessings.
Thus, as we travel we become globally aware believers and we grow thereby. Our short term mission trips are not really about the incredible service that we perform for the missionary (although we hope that we help) they are about our own formation as growing believers working for the kingdom of God here at home and internationally. We GO so that we can learn and grow.