THE IDEAL SHORT-TERM:
From: Wade.Harlan@wciu.edu (Wade Harlan)
1) MOVES PEOPLE TO STRATEGIC LIFE INVOLVEMENT IN WORLD EVANGELIZATION There are many benefits of short-terms and many reasons people go on them, but my experience is that the trips that benefit the kingdom the most are those that focus on helping the participants catch a vision for long-term involvement in missions (whether as a goer, supporter, or mobilizer). In my opinion, if people don't see much tangible fruit from their short-term ministry, but they catch the vision for strategic life-time involvement in world evangelization, then the trip has been an overwhelming success. All of the other points listed below flow from this primary guiding principle for short-terms.
2) HAS A DEBRIEF AND FOLLOWS-UP THE EXPERIENCE. How tragic that so many short-terms don't have any type of debrief. Even fewer get the participants together after the fact (2 weeks, 4 months and 8 months is recommended) to see how they are integrating their short-term experience into their everyday life. Debriefs should help participants process what they've learned about themselves and world evangelization and how they will integrate it into the rest of their lives. It also should help participants see how they can be good stewards of their experience - especially in regards to sharing their experiences effectively with others. Finally, debrief should prepare and equip the participants for effective re-entry into their own culture.
3) FOCUSES ON THE UNREACHED. One of the reasons 90% of today's missionaries go to the reached part of the world is because AT LEAST 90% of our short-terms are among the reached. As someone wisely said of short-termers, "where dispatched, they tend to latch." Of course traditional evangelism opportunities are increased and logistical, travel, and language barriers are generally decreased when we go to places where the church is already established, but even these trips can build vision for work among the unreached if the leaders continually educate about the unreached. Also, by going to unreached people groups in Canada and Latin American it is still possible to give participants first-hand exposure to the unreached while keeping costs and logistical problems relatively low.
4) ENABLES PARTICIPANTS TO ENTER INTO THE LOCAL'S LIVES AND CULTURE. The best way for this to happen is when participants eat their meals and stay in the homes of local families.
5) EXPOSES PARTICIPANTS TO LONG-TERM MISSIONARIES. Short-termers rubbing shoulders with effective long-term missionaries and their families is an explosive phenomena that has changed the direction of many a young life. What a disservice we do to short- termers if we fail to personally expose them to these radical people known as "missionaries" while also letting them see that they are real people just like them - "just a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody!" (Jim Elliott)
6) EXPOSES PARTICIPANTS TO DIFFERENT TYPES OF OPPORTUNITIES. Direct exposure to different types of mission work such as church planting, Bible translation, medical work, or tentmaking is what often causes the light to go in their head as they realize, "Hey! I could see myself doing that!" We should seek to expose short-termers to as many types of mission work as reasonably possible.
7) SENDS PEOPLE IN TEAMS. One of the most challenging, yet gratifying aspects of mission work is in working effectively with others. Teamwork and conflict- resolution skills are indispensable for effective missionaries, and short-terms are one of the best places to effectively teach these skills. Ideally teams will be from the same church, campus group or geographic area. This makes follow-up significantly easier, aids in smooth re-entry, and allows the benefits of the team's experience (team bonding, personal growth) to flow back into the local church or campus group.
8) REQUIRES PARTICIPANTS TO RAISE PRAYER AND FINANCIAL SUPPORT. Even if participants are able to pay for the entire cost of the trip with their own finances, I recommend they still be required to send out a support letter to raise at least a portion of their own finances. Asking for and receiving financial support is a stumbling block that keeps some people from pursuing missions long-term. Short- terms provide a great opportunity to overcome these barriers. Parti- cipants should be required to raise a certain number of prayer supporters as well.
9) IS AS LONG A REASONABLY POSSIBLE. It is becoming very common for people to spend $2500 or more on air fare and only spend 2 weeks on the field. Of course, in some cases this is all the time that people are able to give up. But whenever possible, good stewardship requires that we make short-term trips AT LEAST 4 or 5 weeks long, if not the whole summer or year! This enables participants to get a more realistic view of the frustrations and joys of long-term work, increases the chances of them experienc- ing and working through culture shock, and enables them to build significant relationships. If a college student can only take a 2- week trip, I would recommend them to save their money until they can arrange to go longer.
10) MOBILIZES PRAYER FOR THE UNREACHED. If among an unreached people group, one of the most strategic projects a team can undertake during and after their trip is to develop a 30-day prayer guide (see Exploring The Land by Bennett/Felder) or at least an 5" X 8" prayer card. These cards generally have an eye-catching photo on the cover, and statistics, general information, specific prayer requests and references for further information inside. (Contact the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse or Caleb Project for examples of these cards.) Prayer and interest in a particular people group can also be mobilized after returning through quality, creative presentations to supporters and churches.
11) ENSURES THAT PARTICIPANTS HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. One of the primary reasons that short and long-term missionaries have unsuccessful overseas experiences is because their expectations are not met. It is essential that short-termers have realistic expecta- tions of what their conditions will be like and of what they will learn, accomplish and not accomplish.
12) PROVIDES GOOD PRE-FIELD ORIENTATION. This should include sessions on: team building, needed shots, pass- ports and visas, what to bring, ministry overview, political/economic /spiritual conditions of the target country, contextualization, cultural differences, being culturally sensitive learners, bonding and becoming belongers, and principles in conflict resolution (including role-playing).
13) INCORPORATES ON-THE-JOB TRAINING AND FIELD EDUCATION. I have found that participants are immensely more teachable with regard to mission when they're on the field. The last 2 years, we have incorporated 2 hours of class time every morning to teach the Perspectives material to our short-termers while in an unreached village in Mexico. Several of the lessons were taught by local missionaries, and we also substituted a few good mission videos for some of the lectures. It was extremely helpful to have the mission- aries illustrate...concepts the students were reading about by giving real-life examples of how those principles had been applied in the particular village we were in. By using Worldwide Perspectives..., students only...do 30 pages of reading per each of the 15 lessons... If your trip won't allow this amount of time...shorter options would include the 13-lesson Vision for the Nations curriculum (25 min. of video, 25 min. of discussion, 10 pages of reading per lesson), or the Getting In Step With the
God of the Nations curriculum (6 lessons with 45 min. of video and 9 pages of reading per lesson). START I and Catch the Vision 2000 are also good options. It is also possible to start these curriculums before you go, continue them on the field..., and then wrap them up when you return... Why more seminaries and Bible colleges don't take their students to the field every summer to teach them mission classes in the context of another culture is beyond me. It's a powerful way to learn!
14) HELPS PARTICIPANTS GET SKILLS & CONFIDENCE IN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION Language learning is another barrier that keeps many people from pursuing long-term mission work. It is important that short-terms help people see that they are able to learn other languages. The last 2 years we have done this by teaching the LAMP method to our parti- cipants and then setting aside 8-10 afternoons to allow them to practice the method by memorizing 5 new phrases and...saying them to 30-50 villagers. Our short-termers gained confidence that they could learn another language, and this method enabled them to also estab- lish relationships with many of the villagers...
15) FURTHERS THE WORK OF THE GOSPEL IN THAT AREA. Ideally, short-terms would all have significant impact on the people group they go to. While this is definitely a worthwhile goal, I believe that for almost all short-terms of three months or less, the primary goal should be to move people into strategic, life-time involvement in world evangelization.
SHORT TERM MISSIONS TRIPS Response to Wade Harlan's posting of 29 Apr 96 From: Francine Graham <76503.51@CompuServe.COM> My husband, Allan (who is Project Build Outreach Director with World Thrust, Inc.) and I just returned from leading a church from Ohio to work on a two-week Project in Moravia, Costa Rica. Allan does this...several times a year. I am privileged to accompany him every year or two. Each time I go, I am thrilled to see people expand (or even begin) their involvement in World Evangelization... We have seen peoples' lives change dramatically over the last seven years or so through the vehicle of short term missions. On this particular trip, we went there to do construction on a Bible Institute located in the heart of a staunch Catholic community. You may consider this a place already reached for Christ; but believe me, the bondage of religion has blinded the majority of the people in this country as well as in the Muslim countries. I heartily "amen" the things you had to say about the value and responsibilities of short term missions. You have gotten excellent insight into the "reason" for short term missions... However, please permit me to make a few comments and/or expansions of what you had to say:
1) MOVES PEOPLE TO STRATEGIC LIFE INVOLVEMENT IN WORLD EVANGELIZATION... Yes!! The goal of any short term trip is life involvement in world missions (going, sending, assisting) we have seen this over and over and praise the lord for it! We have seen people that have been minimally involved in church become active in church (especially in missions) and even continue into full-time missions involvement...
2) HAS A DEBRIEF AND FOLLOWS-UP THE EXPERIENCE ...Absolutely! The sharing and exposing of what the Lord has taught each participant is the most vital part of the trip. This is the part of the trip that the enemy always seeks to destroy by time constraints, distractions, etc. The group "reunion" and the celebration service that is done about two weeks later is the revitalization of the team and communication to the remainder of the church that stayed behind and prayed, gave, and assisted. Whole-church involvement in a project leads to whole-church support of the returning team.
3) FOCUSES ON THE UNREACHED... I think you already see the practical reasons that short-term missions teams are taken to Latin America. But did you know that some missions agencies (such as CAM International) have been developing leaders in the Latin church to send missionaries to the Muslim countries. In Costa Rica alone, missionaries to Middle East and African countries (that have been closed to Americans) have been sent and accepted in those very countries. Not only do latins resemble many Muslims physically, but are closer culturally. This is a very good reason to send teams to latin countries - not only do they help develop church leaders by their assistance, but indirectly are involved in the evangelization of the unreached...
5) EXPOSES PARTICIPANTS TO LONG-TERM MISSIONARIES ... Allan only works on projects where there is active exposure to "real missionaries." Not only do the team participants get an exposure to what these missionaries do every day, but the missionaries sometimes receive the benefit of new supporters and partners in prayer...
7) SENDS PEOPLE IN TEAMS... Last year we took along a lady in our church that could not get along with anybody. She was continually complaining about something. After the two weeks with a portion of our church, working together, she was able to see her brothers and sisters in Christ in a whole new dimension. Praise the Lord - she smiles a lot now!!...
9) IS AS LONG AS REASONABLY POSSIBLE...Oops, we differ here. Many people want to only go for a week, but we insist they stay for the two-week trip. Two weeks is minimal...However, most regular people cannot get more than two weeks off of work (or school) at a time. Two weeks can really have the desired results. I don't think that a two-week trip labels someone as not being a good steward of the Lord's funds. He has graciously funded at least four of my trips in miraculous ways!...
11) ENSURES PARTICIPANTS HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS ...Going with openness is so very important - the only expectation that one must have is that God is going to work in the trip and in the heart.
12) PROVIDES GOOD PRE-FIELD ORIENTATION...In Project Build, this is accomplished by several Bible study/sharing meetings over the course of the year preceding the trip and an all-day orientation a month before the trip. Allan also provides a manual for the participants for easy reference of the needed...information...
14)HELPS PARTICIPANTS GET SKILLS & CONFIDENCE IN LANGUAGE ACQUISITION... Our son went on his first short-term trip at age 15 to Guatemala and signed up to take Spanish when he got home. He really had a desire to learn to communicate with the people there. When I travel with a group, it is really fun to tell them the words in Spanish and see them get excited when they can say them...