Short-term team from WV building a pastor a house in Montero, Bolivia
Women's Soccer team from Malone University getting to know Brazillian College Students in Bolivia
Team from a church in Atlanta, GA area building a COB church
So what’s the point of doing Short-term mission trips?
Just this morning, in a meeting with a pastor here in Cochabamba, Bolivia we were talking about their church. Through the course of the story and telling us how hard his church had worked on a specific project and how God had intervened on their behalf, he paused. He then said (I am paraphrasing here) that he was also very thankful for the partnership he has with us and the volunteer mission teams that we brought down to help them in their project. He went on to say that without their help and support the project would have never made it this far.
As missionaries that host 10-12 teams annually, I can tell you stories like this one where churches and ministries have been changed because of the work of volunteers and volunteer short-term mission teams. You know something else…when I am talking to them they rarely mention the project.
I think the secret to a short-term mission team making an impact on the project isn’t focusing on the work, but the people who are doing it. Right after the pastor thanked me for my time and support, he began to do some "name dropping". He spoke of the pastor that came and prayed with him when they first arrived at the site and asked God to protect his family in their ministry. He spoke about the nurse who was with the team and helped bandage and comfort his church members before thinking of the needs of the team. He smiled when he talked about the older lady who wasn’t able to do hard labor, but spent hours playing with the children at the work site and trying to communicate with their grandmothers.
In this moment, my heart was full because that is exactly
the point of hosting these teams.
Are the projects important? Of course they are, but what is more important are the friendships that form around a common faith in Jesus Christ and played out within a common project. Personally, I don’t really concern myself with whether the job gets all the way done when a volunteer team is here. Honestly, they rarely do. What is much more important to me is the encouragement that they receive by the presence of these volunteers who would give of their time and money to come and get to know them personally.
To be fair, not every team clicks like this, but when they don’t it is a rarity. Generally when a team comes with a plan to “change the world” what happens is they fall in love with a people, work takes second place and they end up receiving much more than they gave. Mutual faith. Mutual respect. A new friend and a little bit of hope to carry you through.
That, my friends, is the point of Short-term missions.