In the movie Bruce Almighty, God gives Bruce Nolen, who has complained that God has fallen down on His job, a chance to have His powers for a few days. Then Bruce immediately abuses them. How? By doing things totally forBruce, of course. Finally, when God confronted Bruce about whether or not he has helped anybody, the response was a definitive, “No.”
However, Bruce does immediately decide to pray for them...
He prays, “Dear God, please feed the hungry millions and bring us world peace.” 😕 God smiles and says, “That’s great, Bruce if you want to be Miss America. Now pray about something you care about.”
But we'll get swing back to Bruce in a minute. This post is about you. You and your mission trip that may or not be happening this year.
You know as well as I do that we can be missionaries in New Jersey as well as New Guinea. But sometimes it is easy to believe that we are only doing mission work when we are in another country, preferably suffering, right? 😉
You may have asked yourself this question at one point: "Should I even go on a mission trip?" It may have taken some great thought and prayer to make that decision. But then you did. And then you started the preparation with your team...
Many young believers were planning to be going on their very first international mission trip this summer, and now that is more than likely not going to happen.
Was that this year?
If that is you, I want to encourage you that this bummer doesn't mean you can't use this time to be trained with some basics about going on trips! That way you are REALLY ready to go when you do! And it'll be fun.
So, today we're going to look at just a few tips for short-term mission trips that are essential for a learner to master before finally having the opportunity to go ... and what mission trips teach you ... from anywhere.
Sometimes our great ideas don’t turn out quite the way we plan them. And that may have happened with you finding out you aren't going on a trip at all. We want everything to work out smoothly, don't we?
Ugh. But maybe you can consider that that's the first lesson you have learned about being a missionary! Things-don't-always-happen-perfectly. Hardly ever. And sometimes ... that can be a God thing. ;-)
So let's consider the first thing you can do to prepare yourself to be your very best you when your mission trip does happen.
ASK THE MISSION POINT QUESTIONS
Look around you. What is the more pressing need in your life today? Maybe God has given you this time to prepare to be your very best on the mission field. Perhaps you can have a Zoom conference with a missionary in your target mission point and ask them a few questions about missions and about what to expect or even better, WHAT THEY NEED!
Remember, they probably have family here too. And they may feel pretty cut off from them. You can't give people everything they’ll request, but you can find a way to do something for them. We can often generate a little miracle we didn't expect when we ask the missionaries or the indigenous leaders how to find better ways to pursue long-term solutions that are about them (rather than piecemeal projects that are more about us and making us feel good about ourselves).
Many short-termers have excellent solutions and preventive measures due to their experience and resources at home. But sometimes their results can be compound. These take time and patience. Maybe it seems like, "They need a playground, let's make them a playground." They might appreciate a place for their children to play, but the same money you used to build it might build a small house with a bathroom! In short ...
ASK, ASK, ASK!
There are a lot of things to consider if you are blessed to have the asking connection and conversation with your target mission point, So here are some suggestions of great questions to ask your missionary friend:
What is your city/village/home like in the mission field?
Tell me a little about the area! (weather, mountains, etc...)
How is the food? What do you eat there?
How are your clothes holding up?
Has anyone written to you from here?
What communication would you like to receive?
What do your friends do for fun and relaxation over there?
What do they do for work?
How is the current crisis affecting them or you?
I hate that we can't be there this summer; is there anything you suggest we pray about concerning the ministry and the church there?
NOW, FIND REAL NEEDS
IN YOUR HOME & COMMUNITY
And what about your own neighbourhood? Could those questions be asked of a minister in your area? At your church? Maybe you could even meet a need you weren't expecting.
Of course I believe there may be just as pressing needs at hand and at home: a woman who needs prayer, a family who would be encouraged simply by your presence with their dinner at your door, an older adult you hold an umbrella for as he walks to the grocery store. James Davenport wrote, "The call to go and make disciples, to dispense Christ love to all peoples everywhere is a call for every Christian. So why take your students on a short-term mission trip, if you could just stay home and do missions?" His words may be a challenge for the consideration of even doing mission trips at all, but staying home is kind of a necessity right now. So then ... here is your opportunity to do missions at home FIRST.
If you can overcome the temptation to think that you aren't sharing the good news of Jesus by doing these things, let me just encourage you that that is exactly what you are doing!
"So, friends, confirm God’s invitation to you, his choice of you. Don’t put it off; do it now. Do this, and you’ll have your life on a firm footing, the streets paved and the way wide open into the eternal kingdom of our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ."
II Peter 1:10-11, MSG
BE THE MIRACLE.
These upcoming thoughts may be the best advice for preparing for a next mission trip at home ... especially if that trip has to be in the future now. In fact, they target the theology of short-term missions in the first place. But first, enjoy this well-loved scene from Bruce Almighty:
You might be so excited about your future trip to Haiti with your church mission team that you forget that it is your turn to wash the dishes after dinner or help your younger sibling with some homework. Who knows what kind of difference you’ll make to your friend who is watching how you interact with your family because he or she does not have one. Or who knows if, during her high school valedictory speech, your kid sister will thank you for getting her through math?
Many people consider it a sacrifice that they gave up “vacation time” to do mission work. How about giving up some time out of your busy weekly schedule to go down to the retirement centre and see what their needs are? Maybe you can start a pen-pal-short-note correspondence with a resident. Or perhaps you can, with caution, look over this list and see if there is any way you can help in other ways in other venues (beware, there probably is!).
Clearly all three of these challenges are very related. Why?
These "Worth it!" missionary challenges inspire you to take this time to look outside yourself. Yes, God will work in your life when you finally go on that mission trip, but make sure you don’t miss the growth that comes from forgetting about yourself. It's enormous growth, I promise. Especially when you remember to focus on God’s greatness and his fantastic mercy in the gospel. There is a reason God deserves to be praised among the nations.
Although the Lord allows us to be a part of his plan, He doesn’t need us. We can be thankful that we are part of God’s redemptive purpose.
God can use us daily and regularly does. Sadly, He often has to use us without our knowing it. It is such a blessing when we do! Take Bruce, for example. He finally recognized the tiny miracles around him, people that were giving of themselves without regards to how it affected them. At the end of the cinematic tale, he decides that THE most effective way for changes to be made is to be the miracle himself.
Maybe this is what mission trips teach you - you can find the positive effects of mission trips whether you go or not! If you ask God to show you, you will not only recognize the miracles He is doing on a seven-day journey to pass out Bibles in China, but the miracle next door, a kid who has said no to drugs and yes to education. Maybe you will join in by offering to tutor that kid on Saturdays. Perhaps you will be a miracle, too.
Related Personal Proverbs:
“A bird in the hand might get scared and leave you a wee gift.”
(A Proverbial Proverb on Over-Pragmatic Expectations)
“Don't let them give you an inch and then say, ‘Okay, I'm done here!'"
(A Proverbial Proverb on On Limited Mission-Mindedness)