This is a guest post by Caleb David from One Child Campaign. I asked him to share his heart with you about short term missions, and the struggle to do missions right in an area where so many get it wrong.
Take it away Caleb;
It was February of 2012. I found myself in an Ethiopian coffee shop sipping on a caramel macchiato with an extra shot of espresso, things could have been way worse. I had just been with a small team in Uganda and now I was back in my beloved Ethiopia. Across from me sat two friends who have given their lives for the people of Ethiopia because of the love of Christ. Levi Benkert of Bring Love In and Jerry Shannon of Embracing Hope Ethiopia. Then, their mouths opened…and to be honest, it got a little awkward when they asked me, “what are your intentions?” and “why do you want to partner with us?”. My human reaction internally was, “oh, no they didn’t!”, but something deeper inside of me screamed to understand why they would question my motives. Through an honest and open conversation with two people who have become some of my closest friends, I realized even more than ever, that I had so much to learn. We, the short-term missions happy church, had so much more to learn.
I grew up as a preacher’s kid and spent several years as a child in India, while the course of my life led me to work for a short-term missions organization for many years in which we facilitated well over 7,000 people on trips. The next phase of life came shortly after we adopted our daughter, Sakari, from Ethiopia and the Lord spoke clearly for us to launch a unique hybrid of short and long term missions while engaging individuals, ministry partnerships and communities – One Child Campaign.
Our philosophy: We believe that the purpose of short-term trips are to create awareness, build Kingdom-minded relationships, successful partnerships, funnel resources with accountability, give voice and facilitate sustainable solutions while connecting communities long-term. This is accomplished through many creative streams and strategic partnerships. The trip is not the end result – the real work begins once we get back home. The goal is to be as invisible as possible and empower the local churches, missionaries and communities to continue the work seamlessly even after the team leaves. This means working within the appropriate cultural and ministry structure and being willing to never be recognized for our efforts.
To be honest, I totally get what the seemingly jaded long-term missionary and local Ethiopian leaders are saying because of their encounters and the overall structure of “traditional” short-term team trips. They have to deal with the effects of those who drop in but exit as quickly as they come. The other side is that short-term teams have the potential to raise awareness, bring resources and encourage those who are putting it all on the line daily. I’d like to establish what a short-term trip should NOT be: a poverty tour, a yearly penance to feel good about ourselves, a quick fix for our elusions of heroism, or a way to fill a hole in our identity. Are we secure enough in our calling and identity to never get an ounce of credit? Each of us must use our areas of influence with purpose and dignity, with a sense of awareness of each other.
We have to think beyond the 10-14 days of our time in a nation – beyond handing out candy, evangelical tracts and putting on drama performances and crusades. Now, before I’m called a heretic, I’m not saying those things are wrong, but I’m asking us to re-evaluate our initial integration into a foreign culture. I humbly ask you to think deeper than the surface of someone repeating a prayer after you. We must make disciples (the concept of multiplication) and that takes time, trust and truth. We must model consistency in our love. We go because we love Him and His people. Any other motivation is wrong.
Everything in our lives ultimately goes back to our identity. In order to be effective we must first know who we are and know that we can hear and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. He has called us to love and perfect love casts out all fear. He came to seek and save that which was lost. What was lost?? Communion and relationship with God – we are to be ministers of reconciliation, not heroes with good PR. The Gospels make it very clear that we are to go, but I think that many times we focus on the action of going and not on the attitude or the aftermath of our actions while we are there. We must constantly check the motivation of our hearts and look past the marketing, the budgets and conferences.
It can be intimidating, so do we just sit home in fear that we will do the wrong thing? I submit to you a resounding “no!” Where does our heart, mind and spirit need to be when we are about to step foot onto a plane when God calls us to go? He clearly lets us know the harvest is ready in Matthew 9:35-38. We need to keep short-term trips going but lay down our own agendas, take the time to engage those who are there on the front lines fighting every day and use their wisdom and experience to forge an effective strategy together. But, before you book your plane ticket and embark on a life changing adventure, commit to putting on the cloak of humility and lifting up the name of Jesus, so that all men would be drawn unto Him not just through your words, but primarily through your selfless love in action.
Today, we are humbled and honored to continue to serve Bring Love In and other solid ministries in Ethiopia as their “sending agency/missions organization”. Our desire is not for huge numbers but for a small, humble army of people who are willing to see, ask, learn and act not based on what we think is needed, but on what God speaks to us through the leadership of these ministries as we seek to understand what’s way below the surface levels of poverty. One thing we will not compromise is doing all the we can to protect the vision and integrity of those we serve in Ethiopia. If this resounds with you, prayerfully consider applying to join one of the focus teams this year and experience it first-hand with your family, friends or church.
May 23-31, 2013 – a few spots are still remaining, apply quickly
July 16-26, 2013 – several spots still remain on this team.
Please research our website or email our office at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and we will be happy to respond to you as quickly as possible to see if these trips are a right fit for you. It’s not about what we are going to “do” but who Jesus has created us to “be”. It’s time for missions to be reborn.
Compassion and Justice for the Orphan,
One Child Campaign