In defense of short-term missions
Views 20 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 3 - 2019 | By: Addie Michaelian
Westmont's students recently returned from several spring break trips to Ensenada, Mexico, Salt Lake City, Utah, and others. Each of these trips fit the description of a short-term mission. Currently, debate swirls around whether short-term missions trips are truly beneficial. A growing number view these trips as merely selfish endeavors that give us a sacrificial feeling and foster an American savior mentality. Do short term missions provide any benefits or are they a moot point?
Engaging with people of another culture with a condescending savior mentality is arrogant and negates anything we may learn from those we serve. However, God can choose to work powerfully through short-term mission trips, and it is not up to us to decide how and when missions are effective. He has the authority to infuse a short-term missions trip with power and meaningful influence. Closing the door on this option puts God in a box.
Though short term missions usually cannot establish an extraordinary amount of lasting change, these trips encourage those who work indefinitely in the field. Local Christians treasure the encouragement willing and excited believers from another part of the world bring to the work, even more than extra pairs of hands. During Potter’s Clay, my team and I led a VBS for a ministry located in a rural area marked by poverty. Every week the man who began the ministry a few years before welcomes the children of the community to the unassuming dirt courtyard in front of his simple wooden dwelling. Here he feeds them and teaches God’s word. At the end of one of our sessions, all of us laid hands on the pastor and his family, asking God to sustain his incredible faith and bless his faithful ministry. The pastor’s rough hands wiped away tears from weathered cheeks. Though our team only interacted with these people for a few afternoons, God worked through our service, if only to encourage this pastor with the knowledge that Christians across the world will intercede for him in prayer.
Furthermore, short term missions bring awareness to the work of the body of Christ in other nations. When we raise support or relate our experiences, others receive information about how God is moving. Churches and ministries get the opportunity to partner financially and prayerfully with those in another country.
Realistically, short-term missions do not allow us to become intimately ingrained in another culture. Thus, the work we accomplish cannot compare to the results of long-term commitment. However, these trips still have meaningful impact. Oftentimes the deepest change is etched upon our own hearts. In Isaiah, God says, “You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he.” God uses short term missions to stretch our faith and our understanding of his character. He reveals himself to us in new ways through the beauty of other cultures and we glimpse the wonder of his power and glory.