Putting the Short in Short Term Missions
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At twenty years of age, I stand about five foot tall. A word that I have heard a LOT in my life is “short.” I learned a long time ago that if I let that adjective bother me, I was in for a lifetime of being offended. So I learned to embrace it and joke back with people.
Another thing that seems to have a negative connotation when short is added to it is missions. How can short term missions be effective? How can you make an impact? Don’t you just get in the way? Isn’t it just a waste of money? Wouldn’t it be better to spend the money one spends to go on a short term mission trip to the ministries which are already established?
I think there are many correlations between a short person and short term missions. And as a short person who has been on a few short term missions trips, I feel that I have both of these topics down pretty well.
As far as my short term missions experiences, I have been on ten day to three week trips to the Philippines, the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, and Coastal Andhra Pradesh, India over the past five years. I will be returning to India this summer for my longest short term mission trip – a month.
First, one of the most important benefits of being short is that your clothes are likely smaller than the average person’s .Which makes packing for three weeks a little easier. However, lugging suitcases is usually a little more difficult for those of us who are vertically challenged.
In all seriousness though, short people may be a little weaker than bigger people, therefore not being able to do as much. As a short person, however, I have found that it is much easier for me to accomplish many smaller tasks that can help the bigger people accomplish their larger projects. The same goes for missions. Those of us who go on short term missions may not be able to do the huge projects that established missionaries can. However, short term missionaries can definitely do many smaller projects that will help those bigger things happen. We can also do the smaller things that the very busy long term missionary doesn’t have the time to devote attention to. We may not see the huge revivals where thousands come to Christ, but we can help walk the streets and pass out invitations and help make preparations for these big experiences. Without the help of likely short term missionaries helping with the smaller, behind the scene projects the long term missionaries could not devote as much attention to preparing the actual event.
One problem that larger people have is that they get in the way of things much easier than short people. This can also be true for short term missionaries. It’s easy to slip in under the radar and do things that established missionaries who are being watched by the government may not be able to do. A word of caution though – short people also have a way of getting underfoot and therefore being in the way. Make sure that you don’t work too hard at trying to do everything the long term missionary does that you get in their way.
Perhaps most importantly, you have to remember that you can’t get tall without first being short. There are probably not many, if any, long term missionaries who did not start out on short term mission trips. Not every short term missionary ends up called to long term missions, but it is pretty unlikely that you will be called to long term missions without a short term experience first.
Short term mission trips have provided some of my best memories. You experience life with new eyes and encounter God in ways you never could in your comfort zone at home. I have eaten things I hope I never find out what they actually were, sweated in 130 degree sunshine while playing with orphans, snuggled children who were abandoned simply because they have special needs, and worshipped with hundreds of teenagers brought to camp straight from gangs and drug ridden streets.
Short term missions is life changing, and I highly recommend that it not be discredited as not being important. If nothing else, short term missions changes the lives of those who go. I am living proof of that, and highly recommend it to every Christian who seeks to live as Jesus calls us to.
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