Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Real Work of Short-Term Mission... reflecting on the journey for long-term impact...

Your church group has just returned from a fantastic mission trip to some far-flung corner of the world, or from someplace much closer to home.
But once people get home, CNN, Twitter, soccer, school, work, and church activities have a way of crowding out the spiritual focus that, just a few days earlier, seemed certain to shape their lives.
That’s why it’s important to have an effective debriefing plan in place even before leaving home.
Roger Peterson, author of Maximum Impact Short-Term Mission and one of the founders of the Fellowship of Short-Term Mission Leaders [FSTML] says that the debriefing process, a time of reflection after your short-term mission, is more important than the actual mission. While not discounting the work that’s been accomplished, real life change comes as people return home and reflect on their experience.
Over the years I have served alongside thousands of people on mission trips in Mexico and attended countless conferences sponsored by denominations and mission organizations. Here’s what I have learned: the most effective people in God’s kingdom are the ones who take seriously the need to stop, reflect, and consider what God is saying to them through their mission.
Tim Dearborn, director of faith and development at World Vision International, says that in order for people to really gain insight from this debriefing time, they need to know what to look for. This means letting your team know ahead of time what you expect of them on their return.
Here then, are ten potential debriefing questions adapted from Tim Dearborn and Dr. David Livermore, author of Serving with Eyes Wide Open. Share them with your team before you leave, and then make sure you carve out time upon your return to reflect on them.
1. What did I learn about myself on my short-term mission?
2. What did I learn about God?
3. What did I learn about the people, the church, and the Christian community in the area where I served?
4. What did I learn about how culture impacts the ways people live and understand the gospel?
5. What did I learn about justice, economics, poverty, and politics during my short-term mission?
6. As a follower of Christ, what did I learn that can help me be a more fully devoted disciple?
7.How might my faith be different if I had grown up where I was serving, as opposed to in my home community?
8. What did I learn or experience that will change the way I live and represent Jesus in my home community and church?
9. What have I learned about my own Christian calling?
10. How can I continue to support the ongoing work in the area where I served?
There you have it. Ten questions to consider as your team returns to your home church. But let me go one step further and give you a bonus question: What difference would it make if you lived each day with the same intensity and focus on Jesus and others as you did on your mission? And then ask your team this follow-up question: What keeps you from living life at that level now?
For most of us, the lessons learned from serving on short-term mission trips may take years to fully grasp.
But that’s okay. It’s a journey.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Adventures in Life Ministry... short-term mission, long-term impact...

Our first team to serve with Pastor Raul

It was late at night when we arrived in front of the small church in Zapopan, just outside of Guadalajara in 1998.  Instead of the big welcome for the missionaries from America, the place was dark, locked up and looked deserted.

Soon someone came by and asked if we were the people people that were coming to serve their church for a week.  When we answered yes, they told us to follow them.

We carried our bags for about a mile across dirt roads destroyed by the summer storms of Guadalajara until we arrived at a house, were fed, and then told where to sleep.

The next morning we went to the church to await Pastor Raul and prepare for our Outreach Club with the kids of Colonia Paraisos del Colli.

The next year we returned to serve with Pastor Raul again.  To a much better welcome.  Because they knew and were beginning to trust us.

We returned again the next year and then almost annually after that.

We are still returning to that small church... in fact I am writing today from Raul's house, 14 years later.

I arrived yesterday from Oaxaca where a small group from that church in Zapopan came to help us with a camp we helped facilitate for kids from the Amatlanes and San Baltazar Guelavila.

Now that may not sound like such a big deal until you realize that the group that came to serve in Oaxaca with us became friends, learned to serve, and play music as part of our short-term mission work with their small church in Zapopan, just outside of Guadalajara.

And that happened not because we went there once, but because we invested in their church and their families and lives even though it was hard and our first experiences were pretty rough.

Adventures in Life Ministry has always believed that effective ministry comes through long-term committed relationships built on a foundation of Jesus Christ.

This last week, having those same kids serve with us as grown ups, was a gift from God.  It is not everyday that you get to see your Kingdom investment in people pay off.

But we did!  Because we believe that long term impact comes with long term involvement and partnership.

Effective short-term mission needs to happen over the long-term to make a real Kingdom difference in the communities we are serving.  One and done mission trips do little to really invest in people or contribute to long term solutions and are in fact at the root of much of the criticism of short-term mission.

If, as you seek out short-term mission opportunities, you look for partners who know and believe in long-term investment, perhaps one day you too will get a chance to see the eternal results of your short-term mission.