Short-Term Missions Serving Long-Term Missions

mogadmin —  September 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

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This week I am presenting in the Short-term Mission track at the North American Mission Leaders Conference in Dallas on the topic “How Short-Term Missions Can Strengthen Long-Term Work.” Originally published as an article in the October 2012 edition of Evangelical Missions Quarterly,below is a taste of what I’ll present:

As the day ended, I was never more grateful to see my bed and crawl into it. I had aching feet from the miles walked that day, a sore back from carrying 50lb bags of flour up several flights of stairs, and stinging eyes and smoke filled clothes from the cigarette smoke encountered from the day’s visits. Craving sleep, I was still a bit wired from all the Turkish coffee consumed during the day. It was Spring break and I was serving with thirteen college students on a short-term missions trip among a Muslim people group in Eastern Europe. Our days were filled with delivering food packets to poor and needy families, visiting with them (and drinking lots of coffee) in their homes,  helping with conversational English in a few schools, putting on a health fair at another school, hanging out in the evenings in smoky cafes with new friends, and spending time over meals with our local host families. In all of this, we served alongside a long-term team and our daily ministry was carefully dictated by their long-term vision and strategy for planting churches and making disciples in the region.

Short-term missions (STMs), particularly from the United States, is a huge enterprise filled with the courageous stories of humble servants but also the fun experiences of adventure seekers (Priest 2008:i-iv; Moreau 2008:11-20; Livermore 2006:43-108). The STM phenomenon certainly raises important questions about motivations for ministry as well as Christian stewardship.

One of our biggest questions [should be] how does short-term work relate to long-term ministry? That is, how can a STM team helpfully contribute to long-term work, and how do we help short-termers become long-termers?

Ed at Iguassu Falls

Ed Smither is professor of intercultural studies at Columbia International University.

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