It certainly wasn’t the first short-term trip I had taken. My husband and I knew before we were married that we wanted to be missionaries in Japan, as we had traveled there with our church and other organizations.
Short-term ministry was nothing new to us, but on March 11, 2011, as we saw the tsunami hit Japan in one of the worst disasters the country ever experienced, we knew we had to go back and help.
In our mind, we wanted to just go and aid the country we loved in their hour of need. What we didn’t know is that God would use this particular short-term experience to radically change the course of our life.
In no time, we had the financial support to go, but the organization we had applied with suddenly informed us that they no longer had room in their relief teams for us, and they weren’t comfortable sending just two people by themselves. We quickly looked for another organization working in Japan and found TEAM.
We knew nothing about TEAM except that they had a large presence in Japan, and we were eager to be on a plane and gone! So, we applied, and by October, were at TEAM’s Illinois office, receiving training for ministry before leaving directly for Japan.
As we toured the office, I remarked to my husband how awesome it must be to work for a missions organization, using one’s gifts to support missionaries overseas. In fact, I wouldn’t mind having a job like that, not that I thought I ever would. I was definitely in for a surprise!
In Japan, offering relief to the tsunami survivors was a powerful experience, which I wrote about on TEAM’s blog when I returned. We felt a deep bond both with the people we were serving and with the TEAM missionaries there. It was radically unlike any short-term trip we had ever taken, and, when my husband and I returned to our home in Florida, we didn’t realize that what we had experienced went beyond just three weeks in Japan.
A restlessness came upon us. Living our daily routine just didn’t cut it anymore, and my husband and I were eager to return to Japan again. As the economy plunged in our area, and I began looking for another job, I remembered the staff I had met at TEAM. If we couldn’t be on the field ourselves, I wanted to serve other missionaries.
I began applying to missions organizations everywhere. After many doors were closed to work in other places, I e-mailed my missions coach at TEAM, asking if she had heard of any open positions. She had. I applied, and in July 2012 my husband and I moved from Florida to Illinois for my new position as part of the TEAM staff I had loved so much during my training.
Three years later, we are again applying to TEAM to go to Japan, but this time, as long-term missionaries. God opened the door for my husband to get his master’s degree in a profession he hopes to use on the field. We found a new, missions-minded sending church in the area that is excited about our vision, and my experiences working for TEAM have broadened my view of ministry and the world.
I’ve grown to appreciate TEAM as an organization, and every TEAM Japan missionary we have met has encouraged us to come back and serve with them. Instead of becoming complacent in our new life in Illinois, we’ve become even more inspired to go and be part of the Lord’s work overseas.
It’s amazing to think how different our life was before. Living in Illinois and working for TEAM wasn’t part of my plan. It hadn’t even entered my mind before our trip, but God moved in mighty, unexpected ways, and we are so thankful that we followed him with open hearts and hands.
If I could give one piece of advice to prospective short-termers, it would be not to let your trip be just a blip in your life. Don’t view it simply as your going to serve others, but try to discern the bigger message God may have for you in it. If I hadn’t taken a short-term trip, I wouldn’t have applied to work for TEAM, and who knows where we would be or even if we would still be interested in long-term missions today!
I believe everyone should serve on a short-term trip at least once, if only to broaden their worldview and increase their understanding of the God’s global purposes. Go ready and willing to embrace whatever God has for you. It may just change your life.