Short-term missions (STM) trips. What does that phrase bring to your mind? For most that phrase brings back memories of sleeping under mosquito nets, eating unknown foods and being pricked with immunizations for diseases that sound very scary. (gamma goblin or something like that…aka Hepatitis A) It’s an opportunity to see another part of the world we live in and experience what God is doing in other cultures and through other peoples. For most it represents a spiritual high, an eye-opening experience that changes their perspective forever.
But what happens when you return? Can your week of conviction and tears be more than a fantastic memory? Short-term teams (for all the good and the bad) can change your life… if you let them.
I realize the motivation for going is often to love the community, encourage the kids and support the work of the ministry on the ground. While I hope that happens, I have come to believe that STM’s are as much about what happens the months following than the week itself. If we let them a short-term experience can propel you into a life of ministry choices and decisions that can shape who you are and bless the world around you.
Here are 5 ways to make your short-term missions experience more than a week to remember.
- Become an advocate. More than likely while on your experience you will encounter an injustice or issue that deserves attention. For example the lack of clean water in a community, the horrors of sex trafficking in a nation, or an epidemic that is ravaging a people group. If you do, then what can you do to bring attention to the issue from your seat in the US? Even more what can you do to help support efforts that are trying to prevent or halt the issue from your seat in the US? There are more than likely groups or organizations out there that are specifically working to curb this injustice. Do some research, ask some questions and be intentional about speaking up about it to others.
Becoming an advocate is a great way to champion an issue and bring awareness to its devastating consequences from wherever you are in the world. Advocacy could be as little as posting facebook articles and comments related to a certain issue, to becoming a speaker or representative of an organization and sharing about their ministry abroad.
If asked, I imagine many organizations would be happy to find a way for you to share their work and story. Here at Reconciled World we are always looking for advocates to bring awareness to the injustices that our organization fights against. If you read something on our website and want to be involved contact Tessa smith (firstname.lastname@example.org). She would be happy to get you connected.
- Become involved locally. Take what you have experienced and turn it into action right where you live. The issues facing our cities and communities in the US are daunting. From homelessness, to loneliness, to human trafficking your city could use your gifts, talents and time.
Most of the impact of a STM is the people you meet. The faces are forever engraved in your mind for years to come. The reality is, the answer to most issues in the US revolve around healthy relationships. If you have been inspired to serve the poor in your city take the time to connect with a local NGO and ask them how you could be involved. There is no better way to honor the experience of a STM and the impact the people of that culture made on you, than to turn it into loving action where God has placed you. Don’t let the enthusiasm end when you walk off the plane, let it carry into your community.
- Internships. So you loved what you experienced but you left wanting more? An internship is a great way to give a short period of dedicated time to a ministry. There are a variety of ways an intern could be used in a ministry setting. Everything from Human Resources, web/social media and video production to on sight work with local staff and leadership could be available to you.
Reconciled World is always looking for individuals who are interested in serving with our organization and field staff. During your internship with us you will build relationships, gain hands-on experience, be exposed to other cultures, and be challenged to go deeper in your relationship with God. If an internship is of interest to you contact Tessa Smith at email@example.com.
- Long-term missionary commitment. My family ended up in Bolivia through the experiences of STM’s. Often times long-term missionaries will attribute a STM to their initial calling of cross cultural ministry. When your heart is stirred for a people group of country you never know where God might take you. Taking the step to being a long-term missionary is an opportunity to more intentionally use your skills in ways that can have significant impact. Such a commitment also allows others (friends, family and churches) to be involved in cross-cultural work with you and to celebrate through your stories and experiences what God is doing around the world. Not to mention, by being on the field you might inspire others to go which could inturn further their relationship with God and give them an opportunity to pray and go as God leads.
There are certainly many ways to take what you experience through a STM and make it live beyond your week long experience. But if there is one thing you can do for sure it’s this:
- Pray. Take note of the people, experiences and needs and bring them before the throne of God with boldness. (Heb. 4:16). God hears the prayers of his people. Issues of injustice must be supported through powerful prayers. Make a commitment to not forget the people you met, by keeping them alive in your heart and mind through prayer.
Your STM is not meant to be a vacation. It is meant to allow you to experience God in a way that changes the way you live forever. It can do that if you allow it to. I highly encourage you to see your STM experience as a gift given to you. With that said, I leave you with this question: how will your gift keep giving long after you return?Image courtesy of Roger Mommaerts/ flickr.com