What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “short-term mission trip?” For me, those words have taken on a whole new meaning since I actually went on one. Historically I thought of missions as work for only truly devoted people who are ready to give up their “normal” lives and move their families to faraway lands, and when you slap “short-term” on the front, nothing much came to mind other than packs of people wearing matching t-shirts and giving things away to those in need. Maybe I was being cynical…or maybe I was just naïve. Regardless, I’m happy to say that looking back, I believe I was wrong on both counts.
Last summer I had the privilege of serving alongside a wonderful group of people at MyLifeSpeaks, an incredible organization based in the village of Neply, Haiti. This short-term mission trip BLEW MY MIND in terms of what can be accomplished, both physically and spiritually, when people give their time over to the Lord and go all-in with a heart to serve.
In one simple week, our team was able to collectively:
-Serve 500+ meals to the village’s most at-risk children
-Interact with 200+ children at VBS through songs, games, stories, and crafts
-Aid 170 dental patients (this marked the 1st dental team to ever visit the village)
-Treat 50 restaviks (child slaves) to activities such as manicures, jewelry making, games, and tutoring
-Build 4 desks for the new school and a roof to provide shade over the community center’s courtyard
-Witness 16 American teenagers ditch their iPads, roll their sleeves up and pitch in with 100% enthusiasm
-And, among other things, fit a newborn girl without feet with prosthetics thanks to having an orthopedic surgeon and a Dell Children’s liaison as part of our crew (as Missy Wilson, the co-founder of MyLifeSpeaks, said, that part of the week “was just God showing off”).
I look at that list, and I’m fired-up. I like seeing movement, tangible things coming together. There is joy in DOING. But wait folks . . . one of the most meaningful parts of serving requires FEELING and it’s hard to visit a place like Haiti and not have that element of the experience hit you in spades.
“For me, it was the fact that one of the hardest experiences I had while I was on mission in Haiti was actually one of the best, and I’ve struggled with dichotomy ever since.”
One of my new friends in Neply was a 15 year-old girl who happened to be a restavik, or child slave. Restaviks have hard lives, but you wouldn’t know it to see her. She glowed—her skin, her eyes, her yellow shirt—she was a bright light inside and out. I got to know her one afternoon when I painted her nails with sparkles. Later in the week, we were at another campus and she put her arm around me as we set out to walk through the sugarcane fields back to the community center. I was wondering what I was going to say on this 15-minute trek because I don’t do well with silence and I’d exhausted the basic Creole I knew. I suddenly started singing “Jesus Loves Me.” I don’t have a good voice but she seemed to appreciate it so I kept on going. I thought she might like to sing too, so I took a chance and guessed at the word for “sing” in Creole. And a LONG pause followed. I could have said the word wrong. Maybe she didn’t want to sing. OR, maybe she thought I was crazy. Either way, the pause was awkward and as we walked arm-in-arm, there was no escape. Then suddenly this hymn just started flowing out of her. I couldn’t understand everything, but I could catch words like Emmanuel. And in that moment it hit me: this beautiful girl glows because she has joy of the spirit. She’s not bogged down by her current situation. She’s focused on what’s ahead . . . and the best is yet to come.
So now when you ask me, “Are short-term missions worth it?” I will give you a resounding, “YES!” God doesn’t put limits on what can happen in a week. You just have to show up with an open mind and eager heart.
Thankfully, there’s no better time than the present! Check out local churches in your area to see how you can get involved! As for mine…Coby and Sue Allen are leading another trip to Neply this summer. Wherever you live I highly encourage you to get involved.
Have you ever been on a mission trip? If so, name one thing you learned from it. If not, what is holding you back?
More information about the Austin Stone Mission Trips can be found HERE.
If you would like to dig deeper into the discussion of short-term missions, check out this sermon titled, “Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Impact” HERE.
A bit about today’s guest blogger:
In addition to being a partner at the Austin Stone Community Church, Susan Bryan is a mom, brand strategist, animal lover and coffee addict enjoying life in Austin, Texas.