I was reminiscing with my former missions leader when she said something unexpected: “The ministry area in South Asia still talks about your team as ‘the Dream Team.’”
“The Dream Team?”
Four years ago, a group of us had gone to serve in South Asia. We were there for four weeks to help a missionary couple, Isaac and Sandy, build houses for widows.
“Yes,” my missions leaders said, “you guys had brought so much joy to them, which is why they still talk about you!”
My missions leader’s words still echo in my heart. When we served in South Asia I didn’t think our short-term missions group was that special. Though we were a musically gifted, hard-working bunch, and I wouldn’t have labeled us as “the Dream Team.”
But reflecting on our time in South Asia, a few things stand out that I believe helped us make such an impact. And today, I want to share those things with anyone wanting to leave a legacy of their own through short-term missions.
Prayer and Worship
Before we rode to the village in the back of Isaac’s truck, our team started every day with worship and prayer. We surrendered the day to God and asked Him to do with us as He pleased. We were reminded of why we were there, and why we did what we did.
As we sang songs of adoration, we remembered that He was already working in South Asia. And we realized we were privileged to play a small part in that work — by moving stones, passing buckets of cement, and watching small houses rise up.
Love and Humility
Our consistent worship and prayer kept our team united, humble and loving toward one another. None of us had our own agenda, insisted on having the last word or pressured others to do things in a particular way.
Our humble leaders encouraged everyone to use their unique gifts to build each other up rather than for our egos. The most effective short-term missionaries share these qualities of love, humility and a desire for unity. It’s the greatest witness we bring, for the Lord said: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
A Commitment to Encourage
While we were in South Asia, we committed to being an encouragement to our hosts, who consisted of the locals and the long-term missionaries. All short-term missionaries, whatever the nature of their work, are called to be sons and daughters of encouragement — especially to missionaries who have committed their lives in a country far from home.
At one point, Isaac and Sandy shared their unique struggles and doubts and asked us for prayer. I remember Isaac saying, “Sometimes I wonder if I’ll catch malaria and die here.” It was a privilege to be invited into this vulnerable part of their journey — and to support them through prayer, service and worshiping together.
In the midst of all the busyness, our team leaders made a point of ensuring we had a Sabbath day. Sometimes missionaries (long- and short-term) feel pressured not to take a day of rest. There is just so much need and so much to do about it!
However, by observing the Sabbath and taking the rest God calls us to, we didn’t let ourselves be controlled by the demands or needs we saw around us. The Lord gave us days to work, as well as days to rest and savor the beauty the country brought.
Catching the Long-Term Vision
We didn’t all become traditional long-term missionaries (two of us did). But Isaac and Sandy inspired us to a life of simplicity, obedience and dependence on the Lord.
They shared how God had led them, a retired structural engineer and swimming teacher, to trade their comfortable homes for the hot, mosquito-swarming South Asia. They shared how the Lord brought them in contact with a local pastor, with whom they work closely in advancing God’s kingdom. Moreover, they showed us how much the Lord can use a willing and devoted couple in their retirement years.
Joy of Heaven
Isaac and Sandy taught us a song that became the theme for our team in South Asia:
This is where the party is
This is where the joy of heaven abounds
In His presence we are free, to praise and shout aloud
This is where the party is
Singing with the angels, hear the sound
This is where the party is
We are dancing on holy ground
Whenever we sang this song, we burst out in dancing and celebrated the victory of Jesus, recognizing that He is Lord over our lives, as well as over South Asia.
An Unexpected Legacy
Our group consisted of three North Americans, two Canadians and two Scandinavians. We were young, inexperienced and very much dependent on translators and locals to help us navigate the ministries.
However, we prayed each day that God would use us in whatever way He saw fit. Little did we know how mightily God would answer our prayers and that He would choose to work through such ordinary jars of clay.
This year, TEAM celebrates 50 years of mobilizing and equipping short-term missionaries. And over the decades, we have seen this pattern again and again: Although short-term is, by definition, short, the legacy short-termers leave can last far beyond the duration of the trip itself. When short-termers are willing to be used by God in whatever ways He wants, He will use them for His ultimate glory.
Excited about the possibilities of what you may experience on your next short-term mission trip?
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