How do I make the most of my short-term mission experience?
The desire to make a worthwhile and lasting difference is usually high among the priorities of those going on short-term mission trips. But if we are not careful this can lead us to unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve, and lead to us seeing mission just as an activity or an event. Short-term mission cannot replace the involvement of those who share their lives in long-term committed relationships, but it can be of immense value if done hand-in-hand with, and contributing to, a longer-term vision.
The desire to make a worthwhile and lasting difference within the local community is usually high among the priorities of those going on short-term mission trips. But if we are not careful this can lead us to unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve, and lead to us seeing mission just as an activity or an event. Short-term mission cannot replace the involvement of those who share their lives in long-term committed relationships, but it can be of immense value if done hand-in-hand with, and contributing to, a longer-term vision. Short-termers often comment that they gain more from their experiences than they’ve been able to give.
Keep your focus on God and His purposes for the trip and on what He is doing, rather than on how you might be benefitting personally or being changed. Whatever you do, do it with a heart to honour God and serve others, taking on board the advice given to you by your chosen mission agency and your sending church. Realise that you will probably learn far more than you will give. And understand that how you do a short-term mission trip may, in fact, matter more than what you do - Things no-one tells you about going on short-term mission trips is a great little article to read on this subject.
Many people go on these trips expecting to make an impact and are surprised to discover that they have been impacted personally to a much larger extent. So, be prepared to be changed. It may be that God will use your experience to lead you in a new direction, but it may be just as possible that it will confirm to you that you’re exactly where God wants you to be for now. Most agencies run debriefing programmes which are set up to help you process the experiences you’ve had and to offer practical advice on making the most of it once you’ve come home. Many people who have been impacted by a short term mission experience become mission mobilisers in their own chuurch communities. Likewise, many of those who become enthusiastic communicators move on a stage further to become team leaders for projects with the agency with whom they had their first experience. Others will seek further training to prepare for longer term service. Who knows where it all might lead? At the very least, be open to what God wants to teach you, and ask your church leaders for their prayerful input as you process your experience on your return.
A good place to start is to tell people about your plans. If you don’t talk about it, then others may miss out on the opportunity to bless you.
- Pray - amazingly, this is often the last thing people do! Many people over the years have been amazed to see how the funds have come in, and largely, it’s because they’ve prayed and had others praying with them. We have a great provider and should never underestimate his generosity.
- Personal sacrifice - this will, and should, cost you personally. Do you have any savings? Can you make some sacrifices to help raise the money you will need?
- Partnership - involve your church, invite friends and family to partner with you, contact trusts or local businesses, think creatively abour sponsored events... Whatever route you choose, you will need a support team of pray-ers and givers behind you.