The Lord saved me during my first semester in college in the Fall of 1999, and in the Spring of 2001 a dear friend took Keri and I through the book, Let the Nations Be Glad by John Piper. It was the first book on foreign missions that I had ever read and it continues to shape my thinking and passion for seeing believers cross borders to plant churches and declare the Gospel.
Since reading that book, I have been a fist-pumping advocate of career missions, but have often wondered about how much good can really be done on short-term mission trips (i.e. trips that last about 1 to 3 weeks). I definitely saw the value in taking American Christians overseas to give them a more vivid understanding of the ministries we support so they will be inspired to pray more, give more, and possibly pursue career missions themselves. However, until this past Sunday I never grasped the extent of what any Christian (pastor, staff, or lay person) can accomplish on the mission field in only a matter of days.
Our senior pastor just returned from two weeks of ministry in Russia with SGA (Slavic Gospel Association) and spent last Sunday morning giving us a report of his time there. One of the aspects of ministry that he was privileged to participate in was visiting small village churches to encourage the pastor and the brothers and sisters in membership, much like Barnabas when he went to the church of Antioch to exhort the believers there to remain faithful to the Lord (Acts 11:22-23). Along the way, our pastor was told of the vast effect these visits would have on each church because of the weight of credibility that would be given to the pastor in the eyes of his people and the surrounding community. Apparently, these visits communicate to the people that the pastor in that church has outside support. A simple visit says, “This guy has other Christians praying for him and helping him do the Lord’s work.”
According to our pastor, the effect of this credibility can last for years. Oh what good we can do just by showing up! Maybe you can’t teach or preach, but can you smile, shake hands, and offer a few words of encouragement? If you haven’t been on a short-term mission trip because you think you don’t have anything to offer, think again, and consider the reality that just going says more to many Christians overseas than you will ever realize.