It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in the back seat of the car as we drove past the mountains and rice fields in the Artibonite Valley in Haiti. Thunderstorms from the night before had left the roads a watery, muddy mess. The ride was bumpy, to say the least! I peered around the driver’s seat to see what was ahead. As we approached a fork in the road, the water suddenly deepened. We were driving straight into what used to be a road, now drowning in water at least three feet deep. People had vacated their homes and were huddled together on high ground. I looked to my right as we passed something peculiar. There were people inside a church with their pants rolled above their ankles over the water line. They had their Bibles gripped tightly in hand and were singing.
This was a sight! Here we were driving through a river of water, and these people had found a way across so they could worship the Lord in the middle of the flooded church. Even though the scene was odd and struck me as humorous, I felt convicted. Should not circumstances like these drive us to worship God and find our hope in him? I could not help but think how the tiniest rainfall on a Sunday where I live would likely keep a large percentage of church members at home. Yet, here I was in Haiti, in the car in the middle of a flooded street, listening to fellow believers worship together
Short-Term Missions Are for Serving Others
It was then that I realized a lot of people go on short-term missions trips for an experience, to gain perspective, or to grow in gratitude. Other people might go on short-term mission trips in order to make themselves feel better. It is tempting to go back home, smile proudly to yourself and share all about your trip to your friends. Then, go right back into the life you were living before. The trip morphs into nothing but a distant, happy memory. The people you came into contact with are forgotten and merely part of the experience. I know this because I am guilty of thinking this way. By God’s grace, I now realize that mission trips are not about the person going but about the people being served.
Short-Term Missions Are for Building Relationships
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While I was in Haiti, I found myself impacted by 1 John 3:10: “By this it is evident who children of God are, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (ESV). This verse reminded me that I was in Haiti, not for an experience, but to love others. The Field Director of Baptist Haiti Mission, Chris Lieb, shared in a group leader meeting a truth that went hand in hand with 1 John. He said, “While you are here, it’s all about relationships. Never put your work before people.” His statement challenged me because it goes against anything that my flesh would desire. My prideful flesh wants people to see my good works. My selfish flesh desires to do only things that make me comfortable. My worldly flesh yearns to experience a new culture without putting in an effort to love people. A key problem in short-term missions is this: we make missions about us and not about Christ.
All of Life Is a “Short-Term Mission” to Share the Gospel
Short-term missions has taught me how little I actually do for the kingdom. We think one missions trip will justify a lifetime of silence and inaction. The truth is that we are called to have gospel conversations with people we come in contact with every day. Why are we silent? We remain quiet because we do not love people. Matthew 24:20 says, “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these, my brothers, you did it to me.” Our relationships reflect our love for Jesus, and our love for people proves that we are his disciples. The reality we fail to understand is that, left to ourselves, we cannot love people as well as Jesus did. Only the Spirit living inside of you can give you the capacity to love others. Apart from him, it is all done in the flesh and in vain.
Singing in Ankle-Deep Rainwater
As I sat in the middle of the road with water coming up the sides of our car, I was reminded that the people worshiping God in their flooded church were my brothers and sisters in Christ. I am called to nothing more important or less important than what they have been called to as followers of Jesus. What seemed to be such an alien picture now became something with which I identified. I suddenly wanted to be there with them singing, ankles deep in rainwater. God had washed me of my pride and replaced it with a love for people that made my surroundings seem less foreign. In God’s mission, relationships and love for people go together. Relationships are key, whether we are sharing the gospel at home, in Haiti, or across the world.