The transition into summer means baseball, barbeques and sunburns.
However, for a growing number of people, the summer months are synonymous with short-term mission trips. On any given Saturday, the major airports are filled with adventurous and compassionate people. These travelers creatively raised resources to travel thousands of miles to serve the vulnerable and once again proclaim that yes, “love is a verb” (thanks, DC Talk).
Food for the Hungry (FH) is excited to have 90-plus teams traveling around the world to assist our field staff in bringing meaningful hope to impoverished communities. Their contribution both in resources and presence is a breathe of fresh air. The relationships formed in the field have the potential to impact both the community and the team.
However, this blog is for those of us who are not navigating customs and immigration en route to some foreign destination. As we give our passport a rest, we can serve the mission field from our home by supporting and advocating for short-term teams. Here are five opportunities:
1. Become a last-minute hero: Short-term teams can be logistical nightmares. As the trip approaches, the smallest snag can turn into a big headache.Volunteer to help the team leader with any of their last-minute details – they will love you for it. Even offering to drive the team to the airport can be a huge blessing.
2. Pray: I know this almost sounds too simple, but it’s the life-blood for true transformation. The work on the field is organized and managed with excellence, but only God can change hearts and bring about sustainable change. As you learn about the country your friends are going to serve, begin praying and asking the Lord to give you a sensitive heart for that area’s needs. While the team is away, set aside 15 minutes a day to pray for the team and the long-term staff serving in the community.
3. Learn to listen: Many teams members come back excited from a missions trip only to return to friends who have no interest in hearing about what God did on the trip. Quick clue: Don’t be that person! Be proactive and schedule some time to hear about your friend’s trip. This conversation gives that person a healthy outlet to share what’s been in their heart. It provides you with a great opportunity to support their development and learn about the transformational working happening in another country.
4. Give: You might know of a couple team members who are still short on their support raising. Stop looking at that support letter sitting on your kitchen table, get off the fence and mail in a check. As your friends share with you about the ministry they served with, ask about opportunities to support the on-going ministry effort. In many cases, this can be as easy as sponsoring a child or giving through a gift catalog.
5. Become an advocate: Many team members arrive home with a lot of passion, but the trip has exhausted them. They are jet-lagged and busy catching up with all their regular-life responsibilities. They want to see others get excited and support the ministry they served with, but they frequently do not have the emotional energy to get others involved. Help them out by hosting a dinner party to give them a chance to share their story with new friends. This will be a great outlet for them and provide a great chance to raise resources for the long-term ministry.
How are you planning to creatively care for the short-term mission goers in your life? How might you be able to advocate for the long-term workers that are serving that communities during the other 51 weeks of the year? Drop me a note, I would love to hear your story.