Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The difference between short and long term missions?

From time to time I see "full-time missionaries" come to the field who clearly were not prepared for the experience.  They may have had a wonderful experience with a 1 or 2 week missions team visit to a needy country, and inadvertently thought, "This is great, I want to continue this full-time".  The problem is that you cannot compare a short visit with the total commitment involved in giving a year or more of your life to missions work overseas.

Short Term missions team from Calvary Christian School ministers at La Vega Christian School
For example, when you are hosted by missionaries, you are usually housed in a safe furnished environment (even when not staying in a hotel), your meals and meal times are all arranged.  You are transported (you are not driving) to wherever you will be ministering or serving.  And you are surrounded by your wonderful friends from your local church.  I know I am generalizing some, but bear with me.  Church services have all been arranged ahead of time.  The cooks have been given
instructions on how to carefully and hygienically prepare the meals.  Clean drinking water is present for you at all locations, whether in the form of water bottles or water coolers. It may be a little rough, perhaps no hot water or electricity at times, but remember, for a week or two you can bear it.  Because at the end of this visit you will return to a cozy bed and home back in the United States.
Calvary Academy Senior Class performs drama in the Rieles area.

But to commit to a long term, other considerations come into play.  What to do with your home? Sell it, or rent it out, or leave it empty until you return. This might entail a mortgage that will need to be paid. What about your car, your dogs (though they can be brought over with you, but will also face some risks and hardships that they would miss back home).  What to do about your health plan, your new extra large TV, Red Box, your fitness center, local park or theater,  favorite stores, favorite TV stations, your home church, and the list goes on. Did I mention the sense of a loss of friends, and family?  Especially if now you will have to set up your new place and live by yourself, in a strange country, with a strange language, and strange customs. How important is it that you go to language school? Very important for a long term stay.

Not everyone can handle these changes.  Sometimes people come hoping that in this new and different environment, domestic problems will diminish.  They hope the children or teens will straighten out, the spouses will appreciate each other more, family issues can be left behind.  Sorry, usually the opposite happens.  Lack of community (a sense of isolation) brings it's own set of problems as your focus is drawn in to yourself and your home situation.
Chi Alpha Campus Ministries Team ministers at a public school near Puerto Plata

On the positive side, if things are well at home, the pressure can be minimized in the new home setting.  A family can actually form very close bonds as they face new challenges together.  Every one has to work together as there seem to be so many new obstacles.  Shopping, going to church, understanding the neighbors, all represent barriers that have to be overcome.  Simple things like getting the lights on in the house, getting phone service, getting insurance for a vehicle can try the limits of your patience.

Now, my purpose in writing this is not to discourage you.  But if you are thinking about a more long-term experience, I don't want you to think it will be like your 1 week mission trip.  There is a difference, but if God is calling you, you will make it. And little by little this strange land will become home.

We appreciate the contributions of our visiting short term missions teams. I cannot adequately express to you the positive contributions these teams have made here in the Dominican Republic. We encourage them to come, and we believe the Holy Spirit has a better chance to call workers to full-time ministry through their visits.  Remember we have a packet for teams at our website

No comments:

Post a Comment