Photo by Arlie Martin
By Arlie Martin
Senior Opinion Writer
I have been on a few short- term mission trips and I have absolutely loved the experience. They take us to places so different from our daily lives and open our eyes to a world that the media doesn’t typically let us see. I have met the kindest people on the streets of Seoul, South Korea who let me use their phone when I was lost and worked with the sweet- est people with special needs in Jamaica. These experiences left a mark on my life.
However, that is exactly my point: short-term missions changed me, not anyone else. Not to belittle the experience, which I find to be wonderful and invigo- rating, but when we enter into a short-term missions experience, it is of the utmost importance that our hearts be in the right place.
If I think about how I’m going to change the world, I miss the point. Short-term missions aren’t about changing the world because things probably won’t be any different afterward. Maybe a few bathrooms are cleaner or a new is building constructed, but life will continue roughly the same as it did before we arrived on the scene. Thinking otherwise only corrupts the change that does occur with our pride. Missions, when infected pride, blinds us to the work that God is doing and inhibits it.
If I think about how I should be open to God’s movement in this experience and how much I will be changed, then I have paved a way of possibilities. God could be introducing me to a new passion for my life. I have heard a number of people at Asbury talk about going to Haiti and being so moved that they want to live there permanently. I love hearing this! These students recognize that their week there was about God opening their eyes, not about the work they did there. This area of Christian life is works-based, so it’s easy to forget that it’s an act of worship, not only an act of service. It’s easy to do things for God and not actually remember to love Him. It’s easy to become Marthas and forget to be Marys.
My best friend from back home, Sara Elizabeth, made short-term missions the center of her life for the last three years. She went into it looking for ad- venture before school and left understanding the meaning of the word trust. She raised money to go to Kenya in the fall of 2010, did ministry by walking through Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania and led a group to Uganda to do street ministry. God changed her and stretched her in ways unimaginable before she left. Though it was hard dealing with things that would’ve made me want to quit and go home, God taught her more about how He provides than she had learned her entire life.
Sara made a difference in the relationships she formed on each trip, but if you asked her about her mission experiences, she would simply pull out her phone and show you pictures. She would show a picture of Otto, who taught her about appreciat- ing something as small as a pair of shoes. She would show you a picture of baby Yuda and tell you how he taught her the importance of being protected by her family.
In other words, Sara will tell you how she was changed by her time in Africa. That’s the attitude we should have when going into short-term missions if we expect any kind of movement from God. We have to be open to His will if we want it to be effective because at the end of the day, short-term missions are a way that we en- counter God.