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

Expanding the horizons…Compassion Teams launch

I love the Frederich Buechner quote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” It’s from his book Wishful Thinking, a Seeker’s ABC.

There continue to be enormous needs around the world, and a passionate group of people who won’t sleep well at night unless they’re making a difference.

We love helping provide opportunities at this intersection. For 6 years, 163 Convoy of Hope Interns have served God and the poor in 17 countries around the world. We love these team members and are proud of where God is taking them as they continue their journey. Alumni are on nearly every continent helping those in need…some are serving in very, very tough places.

In 2013, we’re excited to coordinate the launch of Convoy of Hope Compassion Teams. Now, church groups and other organizations can serve as a team for about a week through Convoy of Hope around the world. Many teams will come alongside our Children’s Feeding Initiative where over 125,000 children are fed. Others will join outreaches around the world. All will help those in need through opportunities on the ground with Convoy of Hope.

Excited about future opportunities to work with great people like these friends in El Salvador.

For 11 years, I’ve helped lead teams much like this and am excited to be a part of this new endeavor. We’re still lining up many ducks (i.e. the website will be much more robust soon), but are thrilled with the potential. Throughout the year, I’ll work to help pave the way for teams to connect with even more opportunities in more places. Also, it’s very important to us that the teams serve in such a way that all involved will benefit…and that’s a difficult philosophical task!

For this to be as smooth as possible, the intern program is going on hiatus. Convoy of Hope continues to be committed to seeing the army of compassion launched throughout the world, and we continue to serve that cause with passion. When it returns, it’ll be at the most strategic time and place.

We’ve loved each step of the journey and look forward to many more ahead. I’m passionate about this expanded horizon and look forward to what God has in store…

Anticipation…

A Christmas greeting from our family

As April was cutting my hair earlier in the week, she said, “You’re getting grey!” She’s right. Life in 2012 has been full…not always easy, but very good and very full. My favorite Christmas verse is John 1:14 in The Message, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.” He continues to be Emmanuel: God With us.

We wanted to share a quick Christmas greeting with you. We haven’t yet figured out how to keep Fisher still…as our family photo and video shoot proves. That said, here’s a short (just over 1 minute) video greeting. During this season, we’ll be praying for people around the world, that they’ll understand the life they can have with Jesus. Merry Christmas.