“Well, I don’t know,” she answered. “I imagine they last quite awhile. These are good shoes.”
“Oh…” I paused awkwardly, trying to remember the things I’d been taught about sharing my faith with strangers. I needed a unique way to start the conversation, but this suddenly felt like it was going a very strange direction. Taking a deep breath I decided to plunge forward with the plan.
“Did-you-know-we-have-souls-that-will-never-die-and-that-Jesus-died-on-the-cross-for-us-so-we-could-live-eternally-with-Him?!” I sort of blurted the sentence out, a verbal vomit that left the poor sales girl looking entirely confused. Were we talking about shoes or were we talking about Jesus?
WHO COULD TELL!
This story is not one of my finer moments in life, though I will say the sales girl in Payless was extremely kind. She put her arm around my shoulder, thanked me for being bold enough to share my faith and asked me if I really needed any shoes. I didn’t so on I moved.
This was part of a mission weekend with my church youth group. The premise behind the weekend was a good one – let’s teach young people how to be bold in sharing their faith. I have no problem with this message and I am grateful that it was taught to me.
But the practice of sharing our faith is so much more effective when it’s actually lived out in front of people, isn’t it? Canvasing malls and neighborhoods and beach boardwalks yields little effect for so many reasons. One, it’s just plain awkward. There’s nowhere to go with a conversation that messily tries to equate the soles of shoes to the souls of man and then throws Jesus inside that blender for a healthy little punch.
Although you absolutely can feel free to pat me on the back for my clever little play on words there, thankyouverymuch.
There’s a lot of negativity surrounding the idea of short term mission trips that floats around the internet. I get where it’s coming from, I really do. Much of it is written by people who grew up a lot like I did, in a day when short term missions was often defined as dropping a group of youth students on the side of the road in matching t-shirts, hands stuffed with the Four-Spiritual Laws, hell bent on saving people’s
There was little sacrifice to be made in such endeavors. In fact, two hours of “sharing your faith” on a sandy beach often yielded a full day of play time and boy did you feel good about yourself because you shared Jesus that morning, yo!
A short term mission trip should serve only to bolster the local church or a local body of believers that can continue the work that was supported by a mission’s team. It does no one any good for a group of people to descend upon them for two weeks like a spiritual tornado if there is no one left behind to help explain what all the pieces of this faith mean. Throwing Jesus at someone who’s stomach is empty, who’s house is made of nothing but sticks and corregated metal, will more often than not be an empty Jesus.
Short term mission trips must meet the physical needs of those they’ve come to serve, and not at the detriment of the local economy. Don’t take away work from the locals. Don’t try to serve Jesus verbally to children who are starving, to mothers whose hands are raw from digging and working and scraping the ground in order to put something in their children’s stomachs.
Show them Jesus by meeting their needs. Serve, backs bent over, next to the day laborers. Relieve their burden, feed their stomachs, hug the children who ache for physical touch. Be Jesus. Be His Hands as you serve them, His Feet as you walk next to those in such desperate need. And when you leave, make sure the local church is empowered so that they can tell the people who Jesus is and give evidence of His Love for them.
There are so many organizations that are doing this well – so many people who are coming alongside local churches and communities and orphanages all over the world and bolstering them in the areas of physical need so that they can more readily meet the spiritual needs of their own communities. If you’re looking for an organization to support and perhaps even take a short term mission trip with, start by looking at one of these organizations. While there are many doing this very thing, I can personally endorse two of them if you are looking for an organization to join on a short term mission trip.
Servant’s Heart Ministry is based out of Nashville and they work primarily in Dominican Republic right now. They are doing just what I laid out – they work closely with local pastors in the villages they serve to make sure that the children are getting what they need from a physical standpoint (food, proper nutrition, health care and dental care) and they are telling the children that they aren’t forgotten by God.
IsleGo Ministries is working to connect the Church as one body all over the globe. They work closely with churches all over the world, but most specifically in the Caribbean. IsleGo takes hundreds of families, pastors, youth and college students every year to their numerous established locations where they work to meet the needs of the local people, to connect hearts with one another and to strengthen the Church as a whole.
Both of these organizations are doing short term mission not just right, but extremely well. And for those of you with young children, both of these organizations offer short term mission trips for families with children as young as 5, and what a blessing it is to serve alongside your young children.
I know this post was long so thanks for sticking with me. What are your thoughts on short term mission trips? How have you seen lives impacted by a short term mission?