WHY DO WE DO MISSION TRIPS?
By Simon McLeay
1. For our benefit and our awareness
2. For the benefit of the indigenous ministries we support
3. To share in God’s global interchange of ministry
I’ve started with ‘Our benefit’ because it is the most tangible thing we see. I think it is incredibly important for those of us born into the First World to discover that this world is not the only world. Mission trips to the Third World open our eyes to issues of global poverty and corruption. They allow us to be far better aware of the brokenness of our world and God’s call upon our lives to improve the lot of those not as fortunate as ourselves. Going to a Third World country not only takes us out of our comfort zone but also allows adults and youth to risk things we may not risk at home. Our young people share their faith, pray for people and go to schools and hospitals in ways they may never do athome. Often these experiences leave a real impact on our lives, and cause us to ask, ‘Why can’t we do this at home?’ We engage in mission trips in response to the call of God, to share his good news and bring practical help. Just turning up and caring for someone is an act of love, and changes our lives. Mission trips are often an intense time of prayer and living in community - we discover things about ourselves and our team that can lead us to personal growth.
I believe mission is a mix of gospel words and gospel action, and I think mission is surprisingly similar ‘There’, ‘Here’ and ‘Very Near’. By ‘There’ I mean overseas in another country or culture, sometimes a Third World country, sometimes a First World country, that has been little penetrated by the gospel. For St Peters, that has been particularly the Philippines, Vanuatu and China. By ‘Here’ I mean our country and our city - we engage in mission through The Lighthouse, St Peters House and Brigades. By ‘Very Near’ I mean our circle of family and friends – sometimes the hardest people to talk to about Jesus, but also very important people to live out our faith in front of. A changed life has more power than any words.
Today we will hear of some of the positive impacts this missions trip will have on some of our young people, and through them upon their schools.
Secondly, I believe it’s incredibly important that we are aware of our impact on the nations we visit, and that our benefit does not come at their cost. A valid missions trip must be of considerable benefit to the local people. We have all heard of missions groups that have gone and built a church somewhere and left only an edifice, or others who have gone and disrupted the local economy and local customs without offering anything of significant value in return. Or worse still, groups that have gone and abused the hospitality of their hosts.
I believe that we should always do mission in conjunction with local missionaries or ministers. When we go to the Philippines we go to support and encourage and work alongside missionaries we know and have known for a long time. When Laurie Sanders goes to China he works with an established mission. When the ladies went to north India they worked with a well established orphanage and ministry. Overseas missions trips can bring a great deal of benefit to the local missionaries - they bring encouragement, they bring resources and they often open doors. I think the first thing that a missions team brings to a local missionary is a sense that they are not alone, that someone cares and that they are being prayed for. Often we can bring an intense period of labour and some resources whether it is to build something, or to bring advanced skills. Medical teams can often bring significant impacts to local communities by the infusion of skills not normally available. Of course, there are many things we cannot do and we have to learn to be very careful to take technology that local people can easily be trained to operate. But clean water systems, accurate diagnosis and minor surgery changes lives. Missions teams, by their very nature, are often welcomed as a novelty in another community. A team of young people may well be asked into a school where a single missionary may not be offered access. The short term activities can be leveraged into longer term benefits. We know, as churches in Tauranga, that if we have a team from a Bible College on YWAM turn up for a week or two, they can initiate or re-energise activities that have grown cold for us. It is the same overseas. This year our team will engage in four different ways. KIM (Kids in Ministry) in Manila specialises in allocating the resource of short term mission teams in a way that helps the local community, so our teamwill be well directed and carefully organised. With Danny, our team will be able to support and compliment a series of ministries that are ongoing and involved other young people in Manila. With Pastor Ric, our team will provide some colour to a long term in-depth strategy for aiding a community. Mercy Link (the land based arm of Marine Reach) are another established group on the island of Calapan who we will be working with.
Finally, I believe that God delights in building relationships across the body of Christ, that he doesn’t want us to just be isolated in our corner of the world, but to be learning from and enjoying fellowship with Christians from different parts of the world. At a direct level, for every young person or adult who goes on a mission experience, there are a few who will find this life-changing and decide that full-time missionary service is for them. Then there are a group of people who find a real niche who perhaps go back every few years for several months and usually use the skills they have professionally to make a difference in a Third World country. Sometimes surgeons go for a couple of weeks every couple of years. Another group of people go regularly to the Third World and use skills other than their primary skills to help people. Habitat for Humanity is a good example of a way that many people use their leisure/holiday time to benefit others. Then there are people who don’t go back often, but pray and give and communicate and make a real soul connection with those who work in the Third World. Some of these people do fascinating work, using their First World skills to develop teaching DVDs for Chinese Christians to share the gospel with, or nutritional supplements that bring wellness to whole communities, or simple plumbing systems that can deliver fresh water to communities.
These are just some of the way that missions trips can change our global story. I am still learning myself and have found my two trips to the Philippines real eye openers