Module Eight: Short-Term Missions and Wise Global Engagement

OVC Essentials Fall 2021 Module Eight: Short-Term Missions and Wise Global Engagement

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    • #76595
      Leah St. Pierre
      CAFO Staff

      Did you have any emotional reactions to the content this week based on personal experience? What stands out to you as the most critical considerations or perspectives as we consider engaging with vulnerable children across cultures and for short times?

    • #76738
      Sarah Alfieri
      Participant

      This week’s content really hit home for me, as mission work has been a part of my entire life. I grew up in China for ten years as a missionary kid, then worked with short-term missions in Africa as a team leader for five years, and now work for an organization that sends short-term missions. Over the years, I have seen an increase in research and best practices regarding short-term missions, and I believe it has been such amazing growth in the field. There are dangers and risks to short-term missions (as with any intervention and ministry). However, through researching and knowing these risks, it helps individuals and organizations create meaningful and genuinely beneficial programs.

      A few of the items that stood out to me are setting clear expectations, and empowering long-term partnerships. Most things live and die on expectations. So, by training team members on expectations and the reality of what the purpose of the trip is, the process is more beneficial. They should know that they are going over to learn and love, not to fix or bring Western culture to the community. In addition, they should know expectations when it comes to interacting with vulnerable children and how caregivers, parents, and the local community should be served and empowered more than the children (that will create lasting change versus attachment issues). Short-term missions can be amazing when managed with proper expectations and boundaries.

      Secondly, trips should empower and encourage local, long-term partnerships. People who will be there when the team leaves, who are staying in the community to see long-term change, who know the needs of the community and how to best help without hurting.

      I have so much to say regarding this module, but I was excited the entire time I was studying the content because by knowing the risks and areas we need to improve in, we grow and we go well!

      • #76793
        Dorathy Lachman
        Participant

        Hi Sarah,

        I loved your comment about how short term missions can be amazing with proper boundaries and expectations.  I couldn’t agree more.  It’s so important not to toss out the proverbial baby with the bathwater!

    • #76792
      Dorathy Lachman
      Participant

      I really appreciated the content in this module.  One thing that stood out to me was the questions – considering what it would feel like to have my child’s photo taken by a stranger, or to have a stranger visit with my child.  What I appreciated was the perspective.

      So often, we get in a hurry to do good and forget what it looks like on the other side of that “good” that we are doing.

      In the video content, the topic of “process matters” came up, and that resonated so deeply to me – it’s not necessarily what good we are doing, but how we are accomplishing that good.  And we can’t do that without a hard and honest look at our own hearts.  So often, we hesitate to admit that it is our own needs that have not been satiated by God that drive our need to “help” others in God’s name.

      Asking good questions, honestly digging in and having healthy accountability seem to be so critical in the area of short term missions.  I am excited and hopeful to see a healthy and much needed change not just in short term missions, but in the sending agencies and churches that have previously embraced the “old” short term culture.  When this kind of change permeates, I am also deeply hopeful we will see a “local” change, too.

      • #76815
        Christy Wiesner
        Participant

        Dorathy, I also appreciated the questions about considering short-term missions from the perspective of being the receiver. Its interesting how much our perspective of healthy and helpful missions changes when we consider how we would respond to hosting groups in our own communities and families!

        I also appreciate your point about focusing on the process and not just the result. How we accomplish good is so important- though we often lose sight of this in our goal and task oriented culture. Focusing on the process is such an important key to successful long-term missions in truly developing relationships and supporting those we seek to help.

      • #76922
        Sarah Alfieri
        Participant

        Hey Dorathy, I loved your response and it was such a good reminder that accountability (both internal and external) is so imperative. When we take time to evaluate our methods, processes, and most importantly our hearts, we find so many ways we can improve and continue learning. I also really liked what you said about picturing yourself on the other side of the “good” we are doing. What would it feel like for a stranger to take my picture, or photograph my home, or school? What would it feel like for someone to ask personal questions about my story and brokenness without having a relationship with me first? These questions are hard, but when we wrestle with them, I believe that we come away with more empathy and the desire to build relationships instead of results. Thank you for sharing!

    • #76814
      Christy Wiesner
      Participant

      As someone who has participated in short-term missions, this module was very practical and helpful for reflection. Continually emphasized was the idea that short-term missions has potential for great good but also great harm. It is so important to plan and prepare well to make sure short-term trips are producing good and not harm.

      Two principles that especially stood out to me is the focus on caregivers and the community. So often churches or organizations plan trips solely focused on the children while completely ignoring the people who long-term support and surround those children. Often the deepest impact can be found in supporting, encouraging, and building up the supports around the children. In this process it is so important to keep in mind the SHORT-TERM in the teams mission- if they want to have a LONG-TERM impact, it must be on the people who are there LONG-TERM. Jephat made a great point about connecting the children with their community by planning camps, activities, etc that include the whole community. This can build the children’s relationship with their community and enhance their support and unity.

      Short-term missions can be a beautiful thing- both for those who receive the team and for those who are on the team. My desire to be a long-term missionary was sparked by my first short-term trip. Even though the church has not always done short-term missions well, God has still graciously used our imperfect methods to impact lives for His Kingdom. At the same time, as we learn better practices, approaches, and methods for short-term missions, let us do the work to serve better than before!

      • #76959
        Meredith Smylie
        Participant

        Christy I love what you said about supporting the people who are already supports in that community! I think this is such an important and admirable goal. So important to be fostering communities and empowering people who are in them instead of coming in as “saviors”.

    • #76958
      Meredith Smylie
      Participant

      I am pretty sure I had replied in this thread previously but I do not see it here now! I have definitely participated in short missions in my life, and feel like I personally gained valuable perspective from them, and felt good about doing something positive for others. That said though, I lacked the perspective of doing what is best and sustainable for the people I was trying to serve. I know some of that effort was misguided, and I am comforted in knowing that the Lord wastes nothing, even in human ways of trying to be helpful.

      I think this is especially true when it comes to navigating relationships with vulnerable children who often have attachment issues that need to be worked out. The room for potential harm in those scenarios is great as we can unknowingly step between them and their primary caregiver in an effort to bond with them.

      I am challenged and encouraged to consider the impacts of short term missions and to partner with people who are already there, to make sure any impacts from the trip are not only positive overall, but sustainable in the long-run. I want to empower, not cut people at the knees!

    • #76978
      Tiffany Edison
      Participant

      This week was so interesting because a great deal of who I am today is a direct result of multiple short-term missions all over the world.  Now that I see both the potential harm AND potential good for short term missions, man I see the fine lines I walked as a kid growing up!  This particular discussion is going to take me a long time to chew on as I navigate this life as someone working in a ministry that does host short term missions.  I’m thankful I’m a part of a team that has all gone through CAFO courses so we can wrestle through all of this together.  I already see how we have made a positive shift over the past few years in how we conduct our trips (and this is before I even came on staff!).  I think one of the most critical things that stands out to me is the absolute necessity to protect our kids and their attachment to their caregivers.

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