I started this mission journey in 1992. It was then that I sat with a good friend, Grady Martine, and together, we fleshed out the idea of Adventures in Life Ministry. Little did I know what that was going to mean over the long haul.
In those early years we were fortunate to have a guy named Paul Lathrop walking by our side. Paul had served in Mexico and Columbia with Latin American Mission, so that kind of made him our expert. Plus he spoke Spanish, not unimportant if you are serving in Mexico.
Together, the three of us really lived out putting the framework around our short term ministry. We would try something, and if it didn’t work, try something else. And we made lots of mistakes, just like we still do today.
Yet through it all, we remained committed to building relationships. Horizontal, people to people relationships that hopefully would lead folks to consider their vertical relationships with Jesus.
While we were committed to helping the Mexican Church realize their dreams of having a place where they could worship, to us, the churches, or facilities we would help our brothers and sisters in Christ build in Mexico, would always be second to relationships.
Now if you sit and talk with missiologists about this, they will wholeheartedly endorse the idea that mission with a relational focus centered on “them” is indeed the most effective way to be about Christ and make a Kingdom impact in this world.
But we have a problem in America. Our short term mission efforts are primarily about "us." What we can do, how much we can accomplish, what we can bring, and what we have to offer. It is as if we believe God’s Church has a deficit as it is being lived out outside of our borders.
It’s a pretty colonial way of thinking isn’t it? This belief that our forms of Christianity are superior to those found in churches around the world.
Imagine the impact on the Kingdom if the almost 400,000 short term missionaries annually leaving U.S. shores, left with the idea of building relationships and being learner servants instead of leaving knowing it all.
Think how this might change how we do short term mission.