In ten days my wife Susan and I will join three others from our church on a short-term mission trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand where we will partner with missionaries who were sent out of our church. There are a lot of different perspectives on short term mission trips. Some people view them as a waste of time and resources while others see them as strategic in advancing the gospel across the globe. Short-term mission trips can certainly be hijacked by poor planning, improper motivations, unequipped participants, and unrealistic expectations among whole host of other contributors. However, I believe our upcoming trip to Thailand will be strategic in advancing the gospel for at least three reasons:
Encouragement – Everyone needs encouragement. When you consider the challenges missionaries face living cross culturally, away from many comforts, far away from family and friends, with the task of learning a new language and way of life, the need for encouragement is typically heightened. We are praying our visit to our missionary friends will strengthen them in the same way the Apostle Paul’s short term visits strengthened other disciples, “When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phyrgia, strengthening all the disciples.” Acts 18:22-23
Timely, personal encouragement can be a game changer for those on the front lines of gospel advancement. Pray that we will be effective at encouraging our missionary friends.
Evangelism – I’m crazy excited about what God may do as we share the gospel in Chiang Mai. Taking direction from our missionary friends, we’ve crafted a plan to conduct spiritual surveys that close by sharing the gospel or inviting them to come to an event where our missionary friend will share the gospel in Thai. Part of this plan was inspired by a visit to a coffee shop I made last year when I was visiting them. I noticed a coffee mug on the shelf from one my favorite coffee shops in NYC and struck up a conversation with the barista who happened to speak english. The conversation flowed so naturally and a seed was planted in my mind. What if we went to the areas in Chiang Mai (like that coffee shop) where there are lots of english speakers and engaged in dozens if not hundreds of conversations that funneled toward sharing the gospel? The worst case scenario is that we would further equip our missionary friends to know where God may be working and what kind of engagement the Thai people may or may not respond to. The best case scenario however — imagine with me — is if a church was planted as a result of gospel conversations! This is the audacious prayer I’m praying as we go! Join us in prayer — that we may be humble, culturally sensitive and appropriate, and evangelistically faithful and fruitful.
Exposure – Lastly, we are going because God’s people need more exposure to what God is doing around the world. One may quickly and rightly rebuttal that in our day of incredible technologies we have more opportunities for exposure than ever before. Though, videos and live video smart phone applications abound, there is simply nothing like being incarnate on the ground. When we walk among the unreached peoples of the world and experience the great need for the gospel and more laborers, something is awakened in us. Seeing the people is more powerful than hearing the statistics. First hand exposure, leads us to pray for the nations more faithfully and fervently. First hand exposure propels us to give more intentionally and sacrificially to missions. Through first hand exposure, we become story tellers of God’s global movement. We tell stories of the need which causes more awareness and concern for global mission. Short-term trips transform into life long callings.
Would you pray for us, as we go? When done right, short term mission trips can strategically advance the gospel across the globe. This is what we are praying for. This is why we are going.