Do Short-Term Missions Matter?

by Roger Barrier


Dear Roger,

In the past, I have been a part of many short term missions’ trips both at home in the U.S. and abroad in foreign countries. Lately however, I’ve found myself somewhat disillusioned with the idea of Christian outreach. None of our trips seem to make much impact, and the cost of raising support can be a big inconvenience to friends and family. Do you think Christians should continue to fund short-term trips or should we be focusing on more long-term projects? – MKM


Dear MKM,

My father was an airline executive with scores of free airline tickets in his pocket. We flew often to Switzerland during my growing up years. From Switzerland we flew all over Europe: England, Scotland, Spain, Italy, France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Greece and the Netherlands—among others.


In every city Dad made sure that we saw all the tourist sites. But, before leaving he always said: “It’s only a block or so away. Let’s go see the underside.” He always made certain that we spent time walking the streets that most tourists never see.


Short-term mission trips make an impact. However, the greatest impact is most often on the ones who make the trip.


Our trips behind the curtain with dad shaped my intention to be a fulltime missionary.


The first overseas trip made by Julie and me was to Rio where we saw children playing soccer with a tin can, and houses built of card board and sewage flowing unimpeded throughout the Flavella (slums). On Saturday morning sacrificed chickens from Friday night’s pagan worship littered most every intersection. I preached in the Flavellas for two weeks. By the end of the third day it was standing room only as scores of people crowded around the windows to try to hear and see the worship and teaching occurring inside.


When the Iron Curtain fell and Julie and I were invited to teach pastors and their wives in the Ukraine. These men and women were so starved for Biblical teaching that over two hundred came from every corner of the country.


When we returned to Tucson we filled out the papers to serve overseas with a long-term mission organization. However, during the process I sensed God telling me not to go. Instead, He made it clear that my job was to raise a lot of money and send a lot of missionaries overseas.


As best as I can figure over the years we raised over $10,000,000 for missionary work not counting the offerings given by our folks to missions organizations not associated directly associated with our church.


On several occasions we averaged sending over 500 short-termers a year to places like Azerbaijan, China, Mexico, Peru, Turkey, Germany and Armenia.


The impact on those who go is monumental; so, we encouraged everyone in our church to raise money and go on a sort-term trip. It is ok to ask family and friends for money. They can have an impact overseas by sending you.


In my experience the most impact made by short-term trips occurs in three areas.


First, teenagers leading Vacation Bible Schools and children’s programs make lasting memories and often are the means for many children coming to Christ as their Savior.


Second, building church buildings and orphanages is lasting work. Living next to the Mexican border enabled our church to organize “Lightning Trips” in which a multitude of our people blitzed across the border and spent Saturday and Sunday working and by Sunday night a new house of worship was on the roster of Heaven.


Third, many people overseas—especially students–long to speak English for obvious reasons. I have seen Long-term missionaries arrange opportunities for short-termers to spend hours helping students improve their grammar and pronunciation. Of course, one of the textbooks used is the Bible.


The opportunity list in endless. Some drill water wells for fresh water. Others organize conferences for business people and teach them the intricates of operating and financing a business. Relationships develop which lead right to the gospel.


So, MKM, I encourage you not to be discouraged about short-term trips. As you mentioned, it is important to invest in long-term work. It is the synergism of long and short term work that helps to advance the Kingdom and reach the world for Christ.


Here is what I recommend for every Christian:


1.   Go on at least one short-term trip—more if possible. Spend some time on the underside and let what you experience break your heart.

2.   Support the missions program of your church home.

3.   Contact a reputable Global Outreach Organization to help you find a missionary and develop a relationship of giving and prayer with that person or persons.

4.   If so inclined support Samaritans Purse as they bring food and medical care world-wide to those in need.

5.   Consider “adopting” an “orphan” through an organization like World Vision. Your monthly gift can bring food, clothing, and education to a needy child.


I am glad that you have a heart for the people of the world who need the gospel Feel positive about the work over seas that you and others have accomplished. The Kingdom is further along because like you.


Love, Roger

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