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.
My 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
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!