I recently returned from Ethiopia after going on my fourth mission trip to Addis Ababa. We go there on an annual trip as a means to support our partnership with Gospel & Grain. While our team of 9 was preparing to go to Ethiopia, there was another mission team of about 30 people serving in Eastern Kentucky at the Oneida Bible Institute. Before the year is out, our church will send four more teams on short-term mission trips to Colorado, Ecuador, Uganda, and Argentina.
I love that our church sends short-term missionaries around the world each year. Since I’ve been a member at Ninth & O, I’ve participated in 11 of these mission trips. As a church during that span, we have sent out 40 plus mission teams all around the world. We value missions. We give, we partner, we pray, we send, and we go.
As much as I love that we participate and seek to engage people through short-term missions trips, I realize that we should do so with much discretion and wisdom. Not every short-term mission trip is a good idea. There is a wrong way to do these type of mission endeavors, and there are plenty of resources on the subject. In fact, one book I recommend is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. So, though others may read this short post, I’m mainly writing to the membership of Ninth & O Baptist to encourage them to continue the work of short-term mission trips. Here are five reasons why I’m glad we go on short-term mission trips.
1) Short-term mission trips help us participate in the Great Commission.
Just before leaving earth and returning to the Father, Jesus told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20). With these last words, the credits roll, and Matthew’s gospel ends.
There is something about last words that carry more weight. There is an added significance to them that we are left to cherish and ponder. Our Lord has commanded us to go, so we go. We go across the street and around the world. We go to Ethiopia, and we go to the East End. We go to Uganda, and we go through St. Matthews. We work in Beuchel, and we work in Ecuador.
I believe when people go across the street to share the gospel, they’re more inclined to go around the world. And I think that when people travel around their world for a short-term mission trip, they return energized and invigorated to engage in gospel witness in their home context. At least that’s been my experience.
I realize that not all of us can go. But as a church when we go on a short-term trip, it’s not only those traveling who are participating. It’s our entire church family. For example, on our most recent trip, we had to fly out of Cincinnati on Friday morning at 6:00 AM, meaning we had to be at the airport at 4:00 AM, and therefore, requiring us to leave Ninth & O at 2:00 AM. Our church bus was in Oneida with another mission team that day, so we needed another means of transportation. We had a faithful servant from our singles ministry drive us to the airport and back that night. No sleep. Solo trek back to Louisville. He didn’t travel to Ethiopia, but he was an essential member of our team.
And it wasn’t just this brother. We couldn’t have gone without the hundreds of people who give generously and sacrificially to our general church budget and the Great Commission Offering (GCO). Through the GCO, we were able to give mission trip scholarships to people to help them afford the cost of the trip. We know that many, if not most of you, prayed for us while we were gone that second week of April. So when a team is preparing to travel or is the midst of their trip, as a church, short-term missions allows us to participate in the Great Commission on a global scale by going, sending, serving, or praying.
2) Short-term mission trips are a tool for discipleship.
Every trip from which I return, I feel like I was the one blessed. You go, hoping and praying that God will use you to bless others, yet you come home having yourself been blessed.
There is a spiritual benefit derived by those who participate. Our teams often come back refreshed, energized, and awakened to God’s work around them. The Holy Spirit often uses these trips to do work in our hearts. God stretches us and uses these trips to grow us in an area of our lives and spiritual walk.
As a leader and pastor, it gives me the unique opportunity to see a team’s giftings and talents on full display. Frequently, gifts emerge that we were not aware of before that we can help people utilize in the church upon their return.
Just this past April, we had a man on our trip that was casually taking pictures, and they were all fantastic. He became our trip photographer and is considering joining our Photography Team at Ninth & O. The likelihood of us discovering his gift outside of this trip would have been much lower if not nil.
3) Short-term mission trips help team members build community.
One thing that drew me to take my first trip at Ninth & O was knowing that I would meet a lot of new people. It was our second summer at Ninth & O, and Rebekah and I wanted to begin meeting people outside of our Bible Fellowship Group. We thought going on a mission trip would help us do that, and it sure did.
We met people from all different areas of the church. Young and old. Professionals, doctors, students, and moms. And when we returned, we had an unbelievable bond with those folks. Now when I see some of them, we still reminisce about that trip. These trips build and strengthen the community.
4) Short-term trips allow us to partner with and support others.
Reaching & Teaching International Ministries and Gospel & Grain are two of our ministry partners. These partnerships contain giving, praying, and trip components. Beyond our partnerships, our church also engages in “missionary care” trips. These trips go to missionaries that have been sent out from our church. They’re one of us. We go to encourage and support them.
We believe that we can offer a great deal of support by taking annual trips to partner alongside these organizations in their mission. We hope that just as we benefit spiritually from the trips, their teams and communities do too. We like to use the analogy from Mario Kart. When racing in Mario Kart and you hit the turbo track, it propels you forward a bit faster. That’s what we hope our trips do for our partners.
We provide extra hands and feet to serve. We encourage them with our presence. We bring necessary supplies. We don’t engage in vacation missions. We partner in the same places with the same people, again and again, developing relationships and furthering our work alongside them in their contexts.
5) Short-term mission trips boost our missions energy levels.
We average about 4.5 trips a year at Ninth & O. We don’t feel like we have missions fatigue but missions kindling. Short-term mission trips keep us moving the ball down the field and remind us of the goal: to make disciples of all people – across the street and around the world.
Thank you for being a giving, praying, sending, and going church. Keep it up!