CHICAGO MISSION TRIP: Small clusters of teenagers, parents, and sponsors filled the parking at 6:00 A.M. on Sunday morning. The teenagers came in all states of consciousness. The junior kids bubbled with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. The juniors and seniors staggered around like middle aged business men longing for their first jolt of coffee. The sponsors scurried around madly gathering up last minute permission slips and organizing the mountains of luggage and supplies. The parents appeared to be in various stages ranging from sheer excitement about a week long “empty nest” to tears of regret as they prepared to wave good-bye to their “little babies.”
I have witnessed this scene countless times as I have deployed short-term mission teams to various destinations around the world to do good in the name of the LORD. We deployed sixty-one students and sponsors who traveled all the way from the border of Mexico to the shores of Lake Michigan to be on mission with “World Changers” in Chicago.
The job assignment for this merry band of followers of Jesus boiled down to construction work for low-income families in the heartland. These carpenters under the supervision of the Great Carpenter were going to use their hands to fix, paint, shingle, and repair homes while using their smiles and voices to share the good news of the gospel with people who live out their lives short on good news.
I recently read a series of articles that questioned the validity of short-term mission projects from practical and theological perspectives. In recent years many churches have strategically shifted from sending funds to support career missionaries to investing those funds in their own people and their own projects.
When you deploy a mission team of sixty of your best and brightest, it would be prudent to ask yourself the hard questions like: What do we hope to accomplish and will this trip really make a difference in the world?
One of the most significant reasons why I believe we send teams on mission revolves not only around what kind of difference they will make in places like Chicago, but also what will happen in their lives. Jesus understood this principle all too well when He sent out His followers two by two to extend reach of the Kingdom in His day.
Robert J. Priest, professor of Missions at Trinity Evangelical Seminary noted: “Like pilgrimages, retreats, and church camps, the mission trip functions as a sustained and communal time of spiritual formation away from the obligations, distractions, and routines of everyday life in home spaces.”
Brian Howell of Wheaton College also observed: These trips should serve to teach us how we are bound up together, in our economics, in our politics, and, most importantly, in Christ. It is important for everyone to see how our lives are connected in Christ.
Flashback: On Monday when Madison, my daughter, arrived with the group in Chicago I texted her asking how the trip had gone on the bus. She quipped: “30 hours long…enough said!” It is a long way to go, but a short trip for an enlightened heart and life!