One Mama's Thoughts on Short-Term Missions

My husband took our second son to Guatemala for 10 days.  It's a rite of passage in our home, a mission trip with dad.  We had waited a while for this one, wanting the right trip at the right time.  And we knew when this trip came along that it was the one for our fifteen year old.  Sometimes, when you're listening for the still, small voice of God, you struggle to hear it.  Sometimes, you hear it so deeply, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt what God is communicating.  This was a "beyond a shadow" kind of knowing. 

The right trip at the right time.

The first day, they landed in Guatemala City and then drove 12 hours up into the mountains, along the Guatemalan-Mexican border.  The next two days were spent constructing a home for a family who was in need.  A home.  My son just helped build someone a home.  With a machete.

And that's why I love world missions.

Because a fifteen year old just got his world rocked when he watched a family of five beam with pride over their new home of wood and tin that could fit inside his bedroom.  And he now knows that the home he helped build with his own two hands is a vast improvement over their previous house, a mud hut that dissolved every time it rained. 

A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

I know because I've been there.  When I was 18, I spent two months in the jungles of Peru, doing my best to minister to the people there who poked at my freckles and called me "leopardo" with eyes filled with wonder. I slept in a mosquito tent on the ground.  I washed my hair in the Amazon.  I bought a machete (a South American staple, I assure you).  I used an outhouse in the dark.

And then one day, I ate something unrecognizable in the home of a local pastor.  Something that was so tough and greasy, I couldn't imagine what it might be.  I finally turned it over with my fork and realized the truth.  I was eating a rodent.  And I thought I couldn't do it.  I thought I was done.  Done with my dinner and done with missions. Until I looked up and saw the pastor, his wife, and their ten children had circled the dinner table in the one room hut.  Their faces were beaming, so proud that they could share their food with the missionaries.

And that's when I realized that those children would probably not be eating that night.  It was their dinner my mind was rejecting.  So, I closed my eyes, asked the Lord to help me, and I ate it.

A teenager's worldview, forever changed.

Because there have been a lot of times in life that I thought I needed something, but then remembered I already have everything I need.  And there have been a lot of times in life when I thought I was done, but then remembered that the Christ who lives in me is never done. 

I have heard some people question whether short term mission teams, particularly teenagers, are an effective use of resources.  They wonder if it would just be better to send money, instead of people. 

My answer to that is, send both.  The money will get used once, and be a blessing.  The missionary will get changed, and be an instrument of blessing for the rest of his life.

My own missionary will be home in three days.  I look forward to wrapping my arms around him (and his dad), but more than that, I look forward to watching what happens next.  Because a man who knows how to build a house with a machete and obey God?  That can only be a recipe for greatness.