Our team loves thinking and talking about the vessel of short-term missions. Helpful? Harmful? How so? As we continue down this path of exploration, we have the opportunity to learn from our past mistakes and to walk forward with the hope of improving—all the while staying open and responsive to what the Holy Spirit wants to do through short-term missions trips.
When planning a short-term missions trip, it's easy to think about immediate results rather than long-term impact. Painting walls, feeding babies, and the like are often the kinds of activities people imagine themselves partaking in during a missions trip. And while these are certainly noble tasks, we think there's an important question that we sometimes forget to ask before we begin mapping out a ministry schedule:
How can we contribute to the real needs of the local ministry and community?
As a trip is planned, having humble, prayerful, open, and honest conversation about the real needs of the local ministry and community are of paramount importance.
In Yebo Life's case, we're focused on the empowerment of local leaders, so short-term missions teams that are 1) willing to humbly serve alongside those leaders and 2) able to equip them with specific skills add immense value to the work we do in Cape Town!
Examples of specific skills that a ministry may find valuable are:
- Counseling (marriage, family, trauma, etc.)
- Bible training
- Parenting skills
- Computer skills
- Graphic/web design
- Financial training
- Vocational skills (baking, seamstress, design, carpentry, mechanic, etc.)
- Physical therapy
- Leadership development
- Team development
Our team is currently talking about what it looks like to be more intentional when planning short-term missions trips. If you're a short-term missionary, we encourage you to also press into this conversation and to ask how the people on your team can be best utilized. For instance, rather than working with children, the CFO in your group could lead a workshop for local leaders on how to manage an organization's budget—assuming that need is present.
But, what if you don't have professional/technical skills that pertain to the local ministry and community you plan to serve? Should you still go on the trip?
We're glad you asked!
Our answer: If God's calling you... go. And while you're on the trip, serve with your whole heart.
Go to invest in the community's next generation. Consider hosting a children's VBS, holiday club, or sports camp that lines up with the vision of the ministry.
Go to pour into to those that are in full-time ministry, so that they can continue to walk out their callings, refreshed and renewed. Take time to get to know them, to pray with them, to cook for them, or to watch their kids so they can go on a much needed date. Rent a house for them, where they can rest and get loved on by your team in tangible ways.
Go to feed the hungry. Go to pray. Go to spread the Gospel. Go to share God's love. Go to encourage. Go to serve. Go to be changed.
We've seen God use short-term missionaries to impact the world. Unfortunately, we've also seen short-term missionaries who simply missed the point. Yebo Life's intention with missions teams is to aim for the former, and we hope that this blog encourages others to be conscious of the imprint short-term missions leaves in its wake.
Do you have any thoughts on how to be helpful, not harmful, when serving overseas? If so, we'd love to hear from you!