(Acts 8:26) Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert.
Things were going well up in Samaria for Phillip. He was involved in a revival. People were getting saved and the Holy Spirit was moving mightily. Then he received a call from the Lord to go down to Gaza. He was obedient and left the exciting and familiar for the unknown and uncertain. But when he got there he found his mission was to lead the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord, who then took the gospel to Africa. Wow, what a great short-term mission trip!
You know, for years the idea of Christians taking short-term mission trips was thrilling and unchallenged. So many churches got behind the individual or the group and helped support them. Other believers joined the endeavor and many saw miracles of God’s provision and stories they will never forget. They went on their mission, God used them, and they were changed forever.
But did you know that there is a constituency in the Christian community that is unfavorable to short-term missions? It’s the theory that it’s a waste of money and that you should send money overseas instead, so that the nationals there can get the gospel out for so much cheaper. It is true that it is more cost effective that way but to overlook the benefit of short-term missions is totally unfair. God can provide for both ways, but the Christian community has always struggled with an either-or mentality.
Let me tell you a story. A year after Cheryl and I were married we had a chance to do a summer of service with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) over in Holland. That experience rocked our lives and changed us forever. When we came home we served in the church, and no matter what we did we always had a mission’s emphasis. Then when we pioneered a church, it wasn’t too long that a mission’s organization was born (GO! Ministries). Years later we left the pastorate but continued overseeing this missions ministry and it is what we are doing today. That first short-term mission trip put missions DNA in our bloodstream.
Here’s another story. On our first church mission trip to England we saw many used by God, our youth pastor met his wife on that trip, and I met my future assistant pastor over there who would serve at my church when he came off the mission field. And people say it’s a waste of money to go on a short-term mission trip? The devil will use anything to keep people from obeying the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel.
It is a whole lot of effort and a whole lot of money to get a person or a team on a short-term mission trip, but the benefits are extraordinary. Ask Phillip . . . he’ll tell you!