I recently returned from a short-term mission trip to Senegal, Africa, where our church has had a partnership with a mission agency and a local village pastor for about five years. It was the twelfth short-term trip that I’ve participated in. Each has impacted me in different ways and they have collectively shaped me. I am significantly indebted to short-term missions.
While there are all sorts of ways that short-term mission trip experiences can be tainted, whether by our own motivations, or by our expectations, or even by the planning of the trip itself, there is still an important place for these trips and good reasons to go on one.
Here are some good reasons to go on a short-term mission trip:
I can’t wait to see what God is doing
There is not a square inch on this world that is not God’s and not a square inch where he is not advancing his mission. One of the profound blessings of a mission trip is witnessing God’s work in a different context. One way I was powerfully impacted in our recent trip to Senegal was the incredible unity among the village pastors in central Senegal. In a 95% majority Muslim country, these men had a beautiful gospel partnership that was humbling to witness. I returned home having glimpsed the unity God was bringing among Senegalese pastors and invigorated to commit to helping foster such relationships in my own community.
I want to create new relationships
I didn’t know a single Senegalese person before our trip, and there are now a dozen or more Senegalese saints who I am blessed to call friend. Each friend brings with them a story. One shared how God called him to the gospel while he was being trained to be a Muslim teacher (a marabout). He shared of the physical beating and rejection he suffered at the hands of his family after his conversion. I shared meals with pastors who ministered in villages for years before seeing even a single person come to Christ. I heard their stories about how that first conversion led to slow and steady multiplication as God built up his church in their villages. Just as with any friend, I was challenged and encouraged by these saints. When you go on a trip ready to engage and lean into new relationships, you are following Jesus’s way and you and they will be blessed.
I just want to help
“Wait a second!” you might say, didn’t you tell us that we weren’t supposed to go on a mission trip to accomplish something specific? Yes, I did. But that doesn’t mean that God won’t accomplish something through you, or that you shouldn’t have a project. And most important is having a spirit that desires to help in whatever way that God might have for you. The most important help you can offer might be praying with people. Or it might be playing soccer with kids. In the small village of Mbadate, Senegal, where we have a partnership, one of the most important ways we help Pastor Diaga, is merely being a public presence, greeting the Chief and the Mayor and making formal speeches of blessing on them, their homes, and their village. Such a presence elevates Pastor Diaga’s standing in the village, a significant thing for the ministry of the gospel in the small rural village.
I want a glimpse of heaven
During the nearly four hour worship service in Mbadate, we experienced incredible worship led by four djembe players, a guitarist, and a powerful choir who sang syncopated arrangements in the local language, Serer. It was a glimpse of worship in heaven I had never experienced before and I might not experience again until we are united together before the throne of the Lamb of God. Go on a mission trip to have your understanding of the global church expanded, and your limited understanding of worship and the beauty of the nations joined together exploded.
Go on a short-term mission trip! Examine your reasons, align your heart with Christ’s heart, but then go! By his grace, God will shape your understanding of who he is and what he’s doing in powerful new ways.