I recently returned from a week-long prayer trip with some friends from my church. It was part of a bigger plan to visit around 160 towns in Western Asia that have zero gospel witness. Our brief was to prayer-walk all around our allotted town, talk to local Muslim people about our faith, and enjoy their hospitality. We were in the town for less than three days so what impact could we realistically have in such a short time?
That’s a question many have when it comes to short-term mission trips. Every year thousands of UK Christians head off to help the poor in Asia, build walls in Africa or run summer camps in Eastern Europe. Yet the limitations of these trips are obvious. We all know we won’t alleviate poverty in a week or two, and we may ask ourselves if building a wall is really helping or is it taking the job of an under-employed local. We want to talk to people about Jesus but don’t have the language to do so. Also, are we really helping the long-term workers here or are we just a burden to them?
While some of these nagging questions remain our experience shows that when short-term ministry trips are well planned with strategic goals they often provide a wonderful contribution to assisting the long-term workers and blessing the nations, especially in places with least access to the gospel. Here’s how:
1. HEART TRANSFORMATION
By visiting other nations and engaging with their people we begin to discover God’s heart for all the ‘families of the earth.’ Unreached peoples become more than an unpronounceable name or a statistic when we’ve walked their streets, laughed and shared a meal with them, talked about faith and prayed for their sick. Their faces become embedded in our memories and our prayers for them come alive.
I remember my first trip to Istanbul, watching the sunset from a bridge while thousands of people passed by below. I was profoundly moved as I realised that probably none of them have ever met a follower of Christ. That moment was significant in changing the course of my life. If we allow God to touch our hearts we will not be disappointed.
Rather than be a burden I’ve seen first-hand how visiting teams can be a huge encouragement to workers who have been labouring for many years, especially those who have seen little fruit. As visitors arrive who bear treats, have fun with them, take an interest in their vision, hear their stories and pray over them they can be a
Further, well-prepared teams often come full of faith, expecting God to move powerfully through them. This usually ignites fresh faith in those who live there, refreshing and strengthening them. If the
apostle Paul needed friends and encouragers in his pioneering ministry, so do we today! In Romans 16 he mentions and greets 26 of them by name.
3. BREAKING NEW GROUND
In some settings, short-term teams can provide the extra numbers to go to places that resident workers can’t. When we lived overseas we arranged for short-termers to stay in local Muslim homes where they were overwhelmingly welcomed in as part of the family. Having received some basic training they boldly and respectfully shared their faith and prayed for their hosts. On page 6 you can read an incredible story of how a visiting team began a movement in an unreached area. Stories like this provide us with a vision of what is possible.
4. TRANSFORMING YOUR CHURCH
Sadly many churches see overseas ministry as something for a few specialists ‘called’ people but the Bible makes it clear that it’s the responsibility and privilege of all local churches to see the nations reached with the gospel. Taking a small team to an unreached place can light a mission fire in your church as ordinary people share the stories of their experiences.
Why not organise a short-term trip with a group of four or more people from your church to go to an unreached part of the Muslim world? If you think you could gather a small team, we can help ensure your trip is strategic, well planned and part of a long-term goal. We’d love you to get in touch if you’d like to do this.
Let’s work together to see that the love of Christ is made known and he is worshipped among the nations.