Since the summer of 2008 we have hosted 61 short-term mission teams consisting of 615 short-term missionaries. Our fulltime mission team has lots of experience participating in, leading and hosting short-term mission efforts.
Over the years we have talked to many churches and learned how they prepare (or don’t) their congregants for mission endeavors. Reading, in the Presbyterian and reformed world, is a typical way to prepare for…well…anything. Most churches that have their missionaries read before mission trips frequently have them read When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. While many mission minded people support this book, we cannot recommend it. The book has more to do with assuaging anti-welfare guilt than it does with sharing the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. To learn why we are not fans of the book read Mike’s book review.
If you are a reader and want to prepare for short-term missions we would recommend the books The Whole In Our Gospel by Richard E. Stearns and Mack & Leeann’s Guide to Short-Term Missions by Leeann and Mack Stiles. Also, you can read the articles “Short-Term Missions: Blessing or Bother?” by Dan and Carol Iverson, fellow MTW missionaries to Japan, and, “Send Me Your Short-Term Missionaries,” written by Mike.
As you prepare for you mission trip you need to focus on four key things: prayer, service, flexibility and relationships.
Prayer – Pray in advance that the Lord would prepare your heart and the hearts of those you will serve. Pray you die to your pride, so when you struggle with culture, language or ministry you remain loving. Pray for your teammates, the long term missionaries and your family staying back home. Pray God will show you what he wants you to see and you don’t force your own will into the mix.
Service – You are going on your mission trip to be a servant. You are there to serve how the long-term missionaries and the nationals want you to serve, not how you think is best. Have a servant’s heart to all those around you, including your teammates. Serve as Christ served. Be humble and accept your role.
Flexibility – Never forget that Satan is involved. He will try to waylay your plans. In addition, other cultures do things differently than you do. Die to your schedules, plans and expectations and know God will have you do exactly what he wants you to do. Your plans will get changed…get over it. Instead of complaining about the changes or problems, understand that the missionaries you are serving deal with this kind of uncertainty daily.
Relationships – No matter what project you think you are there to do, understand you are there to show the love and mercy of Christ. Your plans, projects and schedules are secondary. You are there to show grace to others. You don’t need to speak the local language to show love and compassion. Show the locals you love them so much that you came all that distance to see them. Focus on people and not projects.
Go with only the expectations that you are open to God’s plan and you want to be used in any way he wants to use you. Go with the heart that you have been sent by God. Act like a diplomat of God’s kingdom, because you are.