4 Goals for Every Short-Term Missions Trip

Reflecting from the Port-au-Prince airport at the conclusion of 9 beautiful days in Haiti, I ponder goals of the team and whether we reached them.

On my first short-term missions trips in the ‘90s*, I figured if we did what we were told, didn’t complain, ate what we were served, learned some of the language, got souvenirs and good photos, prayed with people and made friends, the trip proved successful. Partly true.

God-connectionMy definition of success thickens as I speak with missionaries, read, study, get to know hosts and connect with “recipients” of the ministry. While I’m still learning from each of these entities, here’s a non-exhaustive list of four goals for every short-term missions trip:

1. Empower local people.  Unless the trip is truly relief in the midst of life and death situations, teams must empower people! This week, Life Church TV OKC  (@lctvokc) retweeted a comment of mine with their own verbiage (italicized), “We’re working WITH the Haitian people not doing things FOR them…//Yes! Restoration, not relief!”  Empowerment is a key step of sustainability.


2. Connect with the big picture:  Our staff heard throughout the week, “Thank you for helping us understand the ‘why’ of what we’re doing.” Those few days must fit within a much larger story…what’s the story and where does the team fit?? There must be an answer, and the answer must be articulated…often, and with clarity.


3. Connect with God: Stillness and space to hear God’s voice stand as a greater goal than completed tasks or great photos. Connecting with His heart in

She's a 90-year-old woman who loves Jesus & works on her small holder farm. She and team enjoyed each other's presence.

She’s a 90-year-old woman who loves Jesus & works on her small holder farm. She and team enjoyed each other’s presence.

the midst of cross-cultural experiences can help us grasp the heart He has for those all over the world—many of whom have never heard a clear presentation of life with Him.


4. Don’t mess stuff up: Sacrificing the long-term for the sake of the moment can devour any intended impact. I’ve heard people say about various instructions, “I’m only here this one time! What can they do to me?” And then the missionaries, church and local workers must clean up a mess. Sacrificing the long-term for the sake of the moment messes stuff up!


Reflecting on the week, I believe we met these goals and more. Awesome team.

Do you agree with these goals? What goals would you add to this obviously incomplete list?


*I’m thankful that my leaders on those trips in the 90’s understood success better than me!

3 Short-Term Missions Lessons from Tilling the Garden

The kids had a blast...I saw three lessons for short-term missions as we tilled the garden yesterday in Haiti.

We rode about 1½ hours up the very dusty road into the Haitian hills. We met up with a local leader who connected us through the church to a family to prepare their land for a garden. They’ve grown corn on the land before, but wanted to expand what’s planted and the size of the garden.
The team and I worked hard! Thankfully the weather was relatively pleasant and the work fun for all. The homeowner, local leader, a local agronomist, the owner’s family and plenty of children from the village helped in the process. (The children had a blast…don’t accuse us of pushing child labor!)


I see three lessons for short-term missions from today:

 -1. What we do should help prepare for after we’re gone. Since the work is short, what can we help set in motion?

tarantula-2. We worked WITH the local people. There was much with today. We loved the stories, laughs, sweat and songs. Extra special…the prayer together at the end. Another kind of extra special? Fighting that huge hairy tarantula together. Sorry friends…he ended up on the burn pile.

-3. We learned. Listening, watching, asking questions, observing and spending time with the people.


Today was a special day.

What other lessons should I add to the list?


Tilling Together

Speak Up Or Go Home

In cross-cultural ministry, I’m learning it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Twice during the three months I spent in Papua New Guinea in 2002, I heard one of my favorite foreign phrases, “You speak up to us.”

A brief history of Papua New Guinea (PNG)

We found two flags, one large

Before we left, they wanted to have a “cross-cultural” party. The only USA flag we found was massive…but we had a PNG flag too. Special day.

The people of PNG call their country, “The Land of the Unexpected.” People from thousands of tribal groups speak 864 unique languages from their villages, where many see the horizon as the “end of the world.” It’s one of the places known for headhunters and cannibals…in recent memory, “Oh, it’s been at least 40 years,” he said. Today, these groups live with a history and set of traditions difficult for westerners to comprehend.

Since the white men (and they were men) “discovered” the inland areas of the country, they’ve sought to “modernize” the “savages” and teach them all the “good things” of life. Unfortunately, many men had horrific intentions. Thankfully, some foreigners live with better intentions today. We learned as we listened, that regardless of intention, most foreigners speak from a top-down position to the Papua New Guineans.


You speak up to us!

We enjoyed many opportunities to listen to the people of PNG, learning much about their culture. One of my favorite days was spent driving and walking and asking questions and soaking in the area. We also shared in churches, worked alongside local people doing ministry in the schools, and enjoyed many local customs with the friends we made.

As someone who spoke in various settings such as churches and schools, I heard a phrase I haven’t heard before or since, “You speak up to us. Most foreigners come and speak down to us, but you speak up to us. Thank you.”


How was speak matters:

-Each person is created in God’s image.

-They understand their culture, we don’t. Short-term missions trips don’t provide enough time to master the cultural complexities of a place like PNG.

-You’re there, and will soon be gone. They’ll stay.



-Listen with fascination

-Learn what you can about the people you’re serving

-Speak with optimism and respect

-Insist on nothing

-Don’t take every “influential” opportunity

-Don’t be arrogant (I almost wrote, “Don’t be an arrogant jerk.”)



In short-term missions, our listening, respect, partnership and personal interaction typically influences far more than our words. Our words influence more when spoken from the right position. From my perspective, speak up or go home.


The story behind the photo

We love coffee, and thought a coaster would be a great way to connect our vision with you. On the back of the coaster, we speak of partnering with our work with Convoy of Hope. We wanted you to know a bit more about the photo, and the work for which we’re asking for this prayer and partnership.

Here’s the story:

Pastor Tom, a wise leader in Uganda, looked at the Convoy of Hope Intern team and said, “Please show this picture to your friends in the USA and tell them that this is the water that makes my family sick.” As a show of respect to him, the photo is below. Josh Thomassen, who took the photo, knew the importance of getting clean water to this village.

We had talked about the truth that approximately 1 billion people lack access to a purified water source, that water born disease kills thousands each day, and that Convoy of Hope is working with local churches around the world to make a difference. Our intern team built a water filter in the village, and provided a way to clean over 99% of the contaminants in the water.

The little boy with this jug? He’s one of the villagers who is benefitting from the water filters. He joins people around the world who use water filters provided by Convoy of Hope and our teams. Many are significantly healthier. These filters are but one piece of our Children’s Feeding Initiative.

Finally, my life changed when I read Isaiah 58:10, “And if you spend yourself in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, your light will rise in the darkness and your darkness will become like the noonday.” I wanted to be sure and include this on the coaster as well.

Here’s the picture of Pastor Tom. If you’d like one of our prayer coasters, please email me your address at mattwilkie (at) gmail.com. I’d be happy to send you one. Also, this is the second coaster in the series. You can read about the first here.

Again, we value your prayers and partnershipWe commit to: living with integrity and generosity, a strong work ethic, and with good communication to you. We thank you too.

Pastor Tim points out the water that makes him sick.



Stories continue…an update on Jason

Early last year I made this video about a little guy we met in a squatter village near Manila. There’s now more to the story…

Update time…

If you saw the video, you know he was living in very difficult circumstances. The people I know in his country are good people who love and care for their children, even if they lack necessities. However, Jason was in a particularly abusive situation and the government decided to get him to a safe place…

In this safer place, he gained physical strength and is now full of hope and faith. Our team returned a year later to visit him. He was strong, full of joy, loved to pray and smiled a lot. Mary Beth, the team leader, shared much more on our interns blog at cohinterns.org.

We met Jason through the Convoy of Hope’s Children Feeding Initiative. His belly if full, mind is learning, heart is full of faith, and he loves life and people.

Some reasons I believe this story is turning out well…

1. People are praying.

2. Our local partner in the area is incredible. He’s a very humble pastor, who sacrifices much for his community. He could work in another place making really good money, but he follows God’s call and is there. He’s very invested in this story and has spent tremendous time praying for and working towards the right solution.

3. The Children’s Feeding Initiative is about much more than feeding stomachs. It’s been an answer to the prayers of the pastor and his family, and a key tool for them to use in reaching their community.

4. People are following God’s plan for their lives…donors, our interns and intern staff, local missionaries who are helping the pastor, the pastor and volunteers from his church, our Convoy of Hope staff that gets food and more to this village, representatives of the Filipino government, those who run (and donate to) a nearby children’s home, and people who pray!

Thank you for caring for little guys like him. I look forward to sharing another update about his life someday.

Meet Nik-more than rock and roll

Everyone has a story…and learning stories about great people is one of my favorite things. Here’s a bit about Nik. He started the band Undying Allegiance 5 years ago, but stepped away for this season to help the poor around the world as a Convoy of Hope intern. His story includes way more than the 1 1/2 minutes you’ll see here, but I wanted you to get a glimpse of this great man who has a great perspective on life.

Here’s the first single from his band’s latest project. It’s ironically called, “The Story of Our Lives.”

What is a time or situation in your life that helped you gain perspective?

Giving shoes to Grace

Grace has shoes

Grace has shoes

In the midst of one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, I watched Grace get shoes.

In Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, we ventured to the heartland of the Masai people. The Masai are a proud tribe of beautiful people with a semi-nomadic culture about which many books have been written. There, our Convoy of Hope interns spent time with some big thinking pastors to partner with them and their churches to show compassion throughout the valley.

It was there we encountered Grace. I’m not sure of her age, but she’s a beautiful follower of Christ who was taking care of her younger siblings. Our team connected well with her, and noticed she didn’t have shoes. While Grace isn’t the only teenage Masai member with no shoes, she was the one with whom Shannon, a 18-year-old intern, was speaking. Shannon had more than one pair, so why should Grace have none?

That day, in a gesture that some might consider small…Grace got shoes.

There’s a lot of places grace needs shoes…amongst the hurting, ashamed, poor and wounded. I want to be like Shannon, ready with any small/medium/large gesture to make sure she has them.gracerift

Standing Grace, with her siblings

Standing Grace, with her siblings

Creative Compassion part 1

I’ll soon share at the Momentum 2010 National Youth Worker’s Conference on the idea of “creative compassion.” I’m excited.

Painting walls can be creative compassion...

Painting walls can be creative compassion...

It’s been fun to see students helping others by serving in soup kitchens, cleaning a neighborhood, painting (legal) murals in downtown areas, using their talents to raise funds for organizations, doing a CONVOY OF HOPE and more…

What are some fun/creative ways you’ve seen students show compassion? List them here or via facebook/twitter (facebook.com/mattwilkie, twitter.com/mattwilkie). I’d love to hear your thoughts…I’ll do a follow-up post with the ideas I’ve encountered.

Many thanks! If you’re at the conference, I hope to see you in Dallas in Austin 4-6 at 11:30 a.m. on Friday.

From deep within, THANK YOU!

Thursday of this week, we’re having a gathering at the Convoy of Hope home office where I hope to convey thanks to friends and family for the prayers, encouragement, financial support, friendship and for being nice to us throughout this journey! With the same spirit, a quick thank you to from my recent trip to Haiti.

BTW: We’ll gather at the home office on Thursday, May 13, from 6:30-8 p.m. and you’re invited. e-tell me if you can come!

Slaves no more

kakidsFor centuries the Kamaiya people of Nepal served as slaves to wealthy land owners. Some were treated harshly, others as part of the family. All were given a place to live and food and water. 

A few years ago, after international pressure, slavery—specifically slavery of the Kamaiyas–was outlawed across Nepal. They were freed. Unfortunately, they no longer had their homes or access to the food and water they had for so long. They also had few skills outside of working in fields and helping in homes.

 They needed to learn to live in their new freedom. They need people to walk with them in their new freedom and show them the way to go and live.

Sounds like people who find their freedom in Christ for the first time…always good to have someone to walk with you and show you the way…

There are approximately 200-300,000 “ex-Kamaiyas” in villages across western Nepal. We visited with some of them from a local church. Special people. 

We played with the kids and laughed with the adults. Tiffany, a registered dietician from our team, learned about their diet. yakWe even drank yak milk tea with them. It was a special evening.

I’m not sure how we’ll help the Kamaiyas in the future. Their situation seems overwhelming and their poverty intense. We’re training people from their area to help with disaster response, and people from their church are helping them, but I know they could use more help than that.

Please pray with our team and others who want to help these ex-Kamaiyas. I know God has a great plan for these beautiful and generous people. If/when we’re able to help them in other ways, I’ll post the stories here.


Tomorrow…some random things we encountered…andycamkhouse