Missio Dei “Mission of God”
The Impact of Short-Term Missions
As a little girl, growing up at a church that has for over 80 years supported missionaries, I often remember sitting in the pew listening to missionaries from all around the world share their stories. However, it wasn’t just those who had committed to long-term service that made an impact on my life, but those who also went short-term. I remember watching high schoolers, those that seemed like decades older than me at the time, walking up on stage to be commissioned to go to places such as Mexico, Wales, or the inner city of Chicago. I remember thinking, when I get to be that age, I want to be just like them and go on a mission trip.
So, when I finally entered youth group at the age of 13 and that first trip was announced I signed up. While we only traveled to a neighboring state a few hours away, it was my first taste of short-term missions. Our group, composed of 12 to 14 year-old, with a few adult leaders, hosted a Bible club, did some service projects around the community, and ultimately shared the love of God with people. As a 13-year-old I was learning to talk with others about God and His plan for salvation for the first time.
After that trip, and as I progressed through high school and college, I had more opportunities to be involved in short term missions, including two trips with TIME Ministries to Monterrey, Mexico. What I did not know was that God, with each short-term mission opportunity, was preparing me for future ministry. I could not see that God would call me, just eight years later, as a 25-year-old, to full time missions in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
What I see now is that through each short-term mission opportunity God was revealing His heart and His mission to me. Yet at the same time, God was beginning to develop within me traits that would be crucial later in life as a full time missionary. I can see now, that through short-term missions I was able to learn about flexibility, a key component, I would need for survival in another culture. I also learned about people groups and other cultures. Mexico was very different from Iowa and I was able to experience that first-hand. What I didn’t know was God was expanding my heart for the nations. God was also beginning to develop skills I did not know I had through these short-term mission opportunities. In Mexico as our team did sports ministry on a nearby field full of kids, I did not know that years later I would be doing the same thing, but with Thai children, playing soccer. I did not know that I would eventually come to work with kids daily as a teacher. Short term missions also allowed me to gain leadership experience, but at the same time allowed me to collaborate with a team. I also learned to trust God more as I began to experience Him in real ways. As I reflect on each short-term mission trip, I can see the ways in which God was at work in my life and the ways in which He was preparing me for future ministry.
Since returning to the United States after five years of missionary service I have had the opportunity to yet again, participate in short term missions. Once again, my eyes have been opened to the ways in which God is moving through short term missions. I believe that short-term mission opportunities, like TIME Ministry offers, not only helps to fulfill physical needs in and around communities, but it also helps fulfill spiritual needs. It was on my last trip to the Dominican Republic, in the summer of 2019, that God revealed the critical need for an established partnership between local pastors and churches and a mission organization, such as TIME Ministries. Roger Peterson, author of Missio Dei or “Missio Me”? suggests that short term missions is best done when serving alongside local churches or missionaries. This partnership allows a glimpse into what God has already been doing in that setting as well as a discovery of how to join God in the advancement of that work. This is something that I not only observed TIME doing well, but also got to experience first-hand.
On our eight-day trip we not only set out with the goal of building an addition to an existing church in Porquero but to also do ministry through vacation Bible school. However, what I did not expect was the way in which I would experience true partnership between the church in Pica Pica and those of us from The Mission Church in Urbandale, Iowa. God opened my eyes to the importance of working together to see His Kingdom come. In those eight days not only did we worship together, but we had fellowship, engaged in evangelism, and worked side by side in construction together. You see, because I was only there for a short time, this partnership with the local church was vital because they are the boots on the ground. In those eight days our group, through God’s hand, provided encouragement, support, fellowship, and teaching for the local church, but at the same time, the church members from Pica Pica provided encouragement, fellowship, translation, hospitality, support, and boldness for us as visitors. After those eight days were finished and we were gone, they remained carrying on the work. This is why partnership is critical in short-term missions.
God’s purpose can be summed up by the Latin phrase missio Dei, the mission of God. Psalm 67:1 reminds us that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on the earth, your salvation among all nations.” John Zumwalt reminds us that “there is a reason we need His blessings and intimacy, that we might be a testimony to the ends of the earth. It is not just about us and what we get out of it. It is about the nations and their salvation. Through us, God desires to affect the remotest corners of the world.” So, how is God calling you to be involved either short term or long term? What is he preparing you for? Are you going to say yes to being involved in His mission and being used by Him? I guarantee, even if it seems scary, He won’t disappoint.
Peterson, Roger.“Missio Dei or ‘Missio Me?’ Using Short-term Missions to Contribute Toward the Fulfillment of God’s Global Purpose.” In Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader, edited byRalph D. Winter and Stephen C. Hawthorne, 752-756.Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009.
Zumwalt, John Willis. Passion for the Heart of God.Choctaw, Okla.: HGM Publishing, 2000.