Into All The World

By Sue Yurick • From our July/August 2012 newsletter

Reflections on short-term mission trips

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20)

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

One of the very last things Jesus said while physically on earth was to “go out into all the world.” For first century believers, WE in the as-yet-undiscovered western hemisphere were “the ends of the earth.” The mission field is vast and still includes parts of the world where the gospel, though preached for centuries, appears to have lost its grip on the people. We are never to give up preaching the gospel, “using words when necessary,” as the saying attributed to St. Francis of Assisi goes.

The gospel is best preached much as Jesus preached it. He did not just say, “Here’s the good news: I am dying for your sins.” Rather, he fed, he healed, and he taught the deeper meaning of the scriptures the people of his era knew. In my opinion, global missions are bound to be most effective when the love of God is expressed by those who carry the gospel wrapped in fulfilling earthly as well as eternal needs.

It is important to reflect on whether or not one feels a genuine “call” to missions work. Short-term mission trips can feel like a cool tropical vacation – or an introduction to the needs of people whose poverty one has only witnessed on film. Short-term missions are useful for dipping one’s toes into the possibility of longer-term efforts. They can be a make-or-break experience, often determined by team interaction and one’s ability to stay healthy abroad. They offer first-hand a clarity and awareness of how much we affluent Americans have and how much we can do without so that others can benefit.

Prayer is key to evaluating one’s call and preparing the heart, but it is not the only thing to consider. Can you eat unfamiliar food? Can you pass up a daily bath? Can you live with substandard plumbing? Can you remember to take the precautions necessary to remain healthy and safe? Are you willing to acquire another language or two?

My own experience abroad is rather limited. Five one-week working trips in Guatemala with Paradise Bound before they built their new base whetted my appetite, but I believe that “my” spot on future teams should be taken by others. When Steve and Nancy Steenwyk invited us to come and meet their niece Emily and her husband David Romero, I was curious. I knew that they were seeking support for their Christian school, Jubilee Centers International in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. I expected we would want to contribute a little something to their effort, so I was surprised when I felt my heart warmed by what could only be the Holy Spirit. After some “testing the spirit,” I asked, “What can I do?”

Teaching English to kids aged 3-7 was not exactly a perfect match for my skill set, which involved teaching Spanish to teens. Still, I believed, and still believe, that I was called to spend a month doing just that. It was some of the hardest work I have ever done, and yet, some of the most joyous. Living with a Honduran family was a new experience, not that I expected to be surprised at how big the family of God is.

The RCA website has some excellent materials to consider as resources for prospective mission workers’ spiritual preparation (click here). This page includes references to several useful publications, as well as ideas for having prayer partners and group devotions. If at all possible, one should try to speak to someone who has served in the area before, preferably having had a positive experience!

Leave a Reply