Kaitlin DalPorto, BJU alumnus
During the summer of 2017, I had the opportunity to travel on the Southeast Asia (SEA) mission team. This team was very unique in that we only carried a backpack to five different countries, during our six-week trip. It was an amazing experience! I learned so much, not only from the missionaries and church leaders, but also from the people that we ministered to.
You might be skeptical about going on mission trips because of the expense, I was too; but little by little money comes in. Churches who aren’t able to go may still be passionate about missions and would love to help send you! I’m sure you’ve heard stories about how God has provided money in amazing ways for mission team members. God will give what is needed to do what He has called you to do!
So why should you “give up” a summer to go on a short-term mission trip? Not only are we called to go, but going on a mission trip will also open your eyes to the world, the gospel, and the body of Christ in a way you never thought possible. Mission trips grow your understanding of culture and challenge your ability to share the gospel with those who surround you every day.
There are many reasons for going on a short-term mission trip. One of the main reasons is to learn what your role is, in missions. Missions, the Great Commission, is not an option. It is something that God has commanded us to do. It does not matter where you are, you should be working to further the gospel. It is important to know how to pray for, send/give, help, and encourage our brothers and sisters on or off the field. It’s difficult to effectively and sincerely do that without seeing the ministry first-hand.
One of my favorite memories from the SEA mission trip was talking with ladies from the church in Kachin State, Myanmar. While there, the mission team helped with the sessions at a pastor’s conference. We had been there for a few days before we were able to really connect with the people. Although there was a significant language barrier, we were still able to have special fellowship with these dear sisters in Christ!
Another highlight of the trip took place in Thailand, where we were able to be part of the Southeast Asia Missionary Kid Camp! Our team members were “counselors” for the week. I loved how the missionary kids enjoyed being together, learned about God, and had fun (regardless of what others thought). Being at this camp helped me to realize how often MK’s are overlooked, whether on the field or on deputation. Missionary kids have a major role in their parent’s ministry.
In Bangkok we got to help one of the churches with their English class outreach. There I realized the usefulness of teaching English as a tool to build relationships and share the gospel.
I think the most eye opening and convicting experience happened in Indonesia. The religion there is predominantly Muslim. One day we went to an island a couple hours away. We had to take several different water taxis and ferries and basically island hopped to get there. It was not an easy journey. Once there, we noticed that everything was closed and there seemed to be no one around. We were told that the island was 100% Muslim and today was a special holy day spent at the mosque. After the service time ended, we were able to talk to the man with whom our friend has been building a relationship with for several years. We only spent a couple hours there before our long trip back. To see the dedication and effort put into simply building a friendship, not even sharing the gospel yet, was so convicting. How much do I go out of my way on a daily basis to share the gospel?
One of the biggest things that God taught me was the unity that we have in Christ. I was able to see it all throughout the trip. There were countless times when we were with people who ate different food, wore different clothes, sang different songs, lived a different way, enjoyed and gave value to different things, and even spoke a different language. We had literally nothing in common it seemed. But you know what? We did. Christ. And we could worship and praise Him together! Attempt to share with one another what He has done for us! Pray for one another in our own tongues, because we serve an awesome God who can hear prayers in any and all languages. Our Creator made both me and the sweet older lady in the mountains of Myanmar to each play a specific role in the Body of Christ. To see and meet my brothers and sisters in Christ literally around the world is an experience like no other! Knowing that we serve the same God and will spend eternity together praising Him is an incredible thought.
One of the conversations we had with a missionary in Thailand opened my eyes to a valuable reality. The most critical part in missions, and really in life, is to have a gospel minded focus. Geography does not define missions. We have a single goal in life: to glorify God and share Him with those around us. While it will be carried out and implemented differently based on the place or situation, that doesn’t change what God has called us to do, nor does it make serving in your own neighborhood inferior in any way to that of one serving in the heart of Africa.
God used this trip in many ways. Yes, I was able to learn much about the world, different cultures, believers in various contexts, and a better understanding of the body of Christ. And that alone is incredible and life changing! But, through this trip, I met a family with whom I’m now serving on the field. It is a story I love to tell because God’s hand and leading in it are so clear.
My church in the US supports the Wagner family, currently serving in Myanmar as they help to translate the Bible. Every week we pray for a different supported missionary. Over Christmas break the Wagners were the missionary family of the week. Because I was with them the previous spring I decided to message them that we were praying for them. Several messages later they asked if I had plans for the fall because they needed someone to come and homeschool their three oldest kids. I was shocked but so excited about the possibility. My major was International Studies, so think history, politics, culture, language. I had never seen myself teaching nor did I learn anything about it in college. But I did have a desire to spend more time with a missionary to learn if God might have me serve in that way eventually. This was a perfect opportunity!
I have been in Myanmar since the end of August last year. Collectively, my time here will soon be almost exactly nine months. I have definitely done and seen some incredible things! No, it hasn’t been easy or the “glorious life abroad” that some might envision. I am just living my day to day life here. I go through the same (if not more) sin issues, struggles, and heartaches (albeit with less ice cream). I’ve had the joy of seeing the work and fruit of Bible translation here. I’ve visited villages, made friends with local people, and grown to love it here!
It all happened because I went on that SEA mission trip almost 2 years ago. This opportunity wouldn't have come up had I not been on that trip. Just because you go on one of these short term trips doesn’t mean you’re signing up to move across the world. God may call you to do that. But no matter what, through a trip like that you will be better able to serve the church and the body of Christ as a whole, all while accomplishing the great commission.
How are you working to carry out Matthew 28? What steps are you taking to “go”? If this is something that you have struggled to do, a short term trip is a perfect way to open your eyes to your role in God's mission around the world and in your own neighborhood.
This week's blog post consists of updates from three spring break teams that went out from Bob Jones University to minister in Michigan, California, and Ohio. We're so thankful for the impact they and others have made for the gospel during this one short week!
Phi Kappa Pi in Detroit, MI
Today was the first day on our society’s mission trip to Detroit. We have the amazing opportunity to shadow and learn from leaders that have planted and revitalized churches in inner-city Detroit. This morning came early as we got up to meet with Pastor Dave Doran who gave us two amazing lectures on the biblical vision of church planting. He walked us through Scripture, pointing out God’s command concerning the importance of church-planting in our lives.
Once we were finished, Aaron Berry took us out to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. While this restaurant showed us a small part of the incredible diversity in the city, David Doran Jr. later opened our eyes to a significantly larger understanding of how diverse Detroit really is. David is a church planter who has such vision for making disciples for Jesus. The passion this pastor has for winning souls for Christ is inescapable. He is a living testimony to all of us, and an example we should all follow. We saw the different social classes as well as the different religious backgrounds of Detroit while David shared his burden for all of them. We saw such a need here in Detroit today, but God is sovereign and we can find hope in this truth as we seek His will for our lives, whether that’s here in the inner-city of Detroit or not.
To finish our day, the seven of us were split up and taken to Gospel Community groups which are a part of Inter-City Baptist Church. We all enjoyed the fellowship we had with fellow believers and getting to know their stories of how God led them to Detroit. Tomorrow is approaching soon and we all must get rest as God has much in store for the following day.
Zeta Chi in San Francisco, CA
Yesterday we were able to tour San Francisco with Pastor Innes and Pastor Pelletier. The weather was absolutely perfect. We got to visit the Golden Gate Bridge and several popular tourist locations around the city. It was kind of a "vision casting" day to allow us to see the city and understand the culture better. It definitely gave us all a burden for the city and the people.
Today, we are spreading out to different coffee shops and places around the church to share the gospel and spread word about the church. It's very rainy today, and that's pushing a lot of people inside. Obviously, relationship evangelism is difficult in such a short time frame, but we have tracts and New Testaments to hand out.
I just spent about an hour and a half talking to an elderly man named James. We talked about politics (of course), San Francisco, California taxes, and the Bible. He quickly asked the common questions like, "what about the people in the jungle that never hear…," but he allowed me to share the Gospel with him and do my best to answer his question. I left him with a New Testament and a tract as well as my email address. I hope he contacts me with questions.
Later, we are going to visit a construction site adjacent to the church during the workers' lunch break. We will invite them to the church and advertise a children's ministry that will start in a few weeks. We've had a great start to the trip. God has given us safety and a great place to talk about Him with others.
Chi Alpha Pi in Orrville, OH
Chi Alpha Pi has always been a society that loves to serve. When the opportunity arose to embark on a mission trip to Ohio to minister to a local church, seven Cavaliers jumped at the chance. Cross View Church, located in Orrville, Ohio, was started in 2015 and is currently being pastored by Bob Jones University graduate John Marino.
The Cavaliers’ main goal is to host a community kids program (titled Friday Fun Night) to present the Gospel message. The night will include games, songs, Bible verse memorization, and most importantly, a clear presentation of the Gospel.
While planning the community kids program, the Cavs team members have kept themselves busy with landscaping and other yard work. On Wednesday, the team assisted an elderly couple from the church with a few outdoor projects. One of the other larger projects the team began was clearing seven pine trees and two oak trees from Pastor Marino’s front and back yards. The team hacked and chain-sawed away from morning till dusk on Thursday, and most of the day on Friday.
Aside from the kids’ program and lumberjacking projects, the Cavs have enjoyed time encouraging the church and one another in Bible studies and fellowship in song. The Cavs have specifically enjoyed the hospitality and encouragement of the Bauman family, praising God with hymns and sharpening one another in the Word. During the Sunday services, the team will minister to the church in musical ensembles and help host a college and career night at the Bauman’s in the evening. On Monday, the Cavs will set off to Greenville again – spiritually refreshed and encouraged after ministering to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
Dr. Dan Olinger
The subject of short-term missions raises a number of questions, both philosophical and logistical. What are the benefits of short-term work? What are the dangers? Who should go? Who should not?
The benefits are great. A brief experience gives the student an opportunity to experience mission work up close and reasonably realistically, at relatively low cost. It certainly makes sense for the student to find out that foreign missions is not his calling before he has gone through the effort and expense of candidate school, deputation, and language school. On the other hand, a large number of career missionaries testify that it was a mission trip that either initiated or confirmed their recognition of God’s calling for them.
A significant benefit for American students is that it attacks the insularity with which most American teens develop; they are separated from the rest of the world by two large oceans, and they really believe that trending issues in pop culture and American sports are significant news stories. They can very quickly learn otherwise if given the opportunity. The student will benefit from this exposure whether or not the Lord eventually calls him to foreign mission work.
Pretty much everyone can benefit from team-oriented activity. Sports provides most young people their primary experience with teamwork, but mission work provides a team experience that is different in many ways from what they’ll learn on the athletic field. Most obviously, the work they’re engaged in is overtly and primarily spiritual; they’re helping one another tell the story of Christ and disciple younger believers. They learn to make sacrifices, encourage one another, and share failures and successes as they go about the business of taking the message to the ends of the earth. That is precisely preparation for life in the church.
Often overlooked is the benefit to teachers of gathering foreign mission experience. It rejuvenates the jaded teacher, and it places into their toolbox a set of experiences that will both shape their teaching techniques and enrich teaching content for the rest of their life.
Any work that can be done well can also be done badly. Mission trips are no different. And the price of failure is high—waste of financial resources given in good faith by God’s people, which could have been used instead on something worthwhile, not to mention the spiritual damage that can be done both to team members and potential ministry recipients if the job is done badly.
A great danger, obviously, is that the trip becomes simply pious tourism; the members are interested primarily in experiencing something new, in gathering experiences for their own selfish purposes. There’s nothing wrong with tourism, I suppose, but there’s also no reason why the church should pay for it. Teams need to understand that they’re there to work, and they need to be held accountable both by supervisors on site and by the sending churches back home.
Another danger with short-term work is that it gives the impression that you’ve “seen missions,” but it typically isn’t long enough to provide a realistic experience. In a week or two, you don’t really have time for the adrenaline to wear off. It’s all a whirlwind and very exciting. But that’s not what missions is like. Missions is all about being faithful through drudgery, routine, and perhaps the occasional moments of terror. Lust for adventure is a lousy reason to become a missionary. My most recent mission team experience lasted 8 weeks, and intentionally; I wanted the students to have enough time to get really tired. That’s part of what they needed to learn.
My greatest fear in short-term mission work is that I or the team will turn out to be more of a burden to the missionary than a help. Most short-term “missionaries” don’t realize how much work it is for a missionary to prepare for and supervise the work of a team. I know of cases where teams ran up significant expenses for the missionary (I hope without realizing it) and then left the missionary to pay the bill. The team leader needs to discuss frankly with the host missionary whether what the team is doing is really worthwhile from the missionary’s perspective; the team needs to ensure that the missionary lets them do as much of the work as possible; and they need to pay attention to the costs they’re running up.
A very significant danger of short-term work is the fact that in a short stay, team members cannot learn to work effectively in a strange culture. They don’t have time to learn the language; they are unknowingly being strange and offensive in virtually everything they say and do; and their effectiveness at carrying out the Great Commission will be significantly hampered.
One more danger worth mentioning is the temptation to cut corners on qualified, discipling leadership. Team leaders need to know how to disciple believers, how to discern what’s happening spiritually in the lives of team members and confront them biblically. There are all kinds of leadership styles, of course; some leaders are very intense and driving (in a healthy way), while others lead with a lighter touch. But whatever their style, leaders need to lead, and they need to be proactive in spotting and addressing spiritual needs as they arise. Not everyone can do that well; knowing a lot about the country or the culture or the cuisine or the airline is simply not enough. This is a mission trip, not a cultural exchange program.
Short-term missions is not a substitute for career missions, but it is an important ingredient in an overall missions strategy when done well. Most Christians would be surprised at the positive impact it can have on the spiritual walk and effectiveness of almost any believer.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.