Tuesday, August 21, 2018

In My Experience

I just finished watching a video posted on another social media sight about volunteering while on vacation.  I think they called it voluntourism.  I have heard much about how trips like this hurt those who are visited and pump up those who go.  I suspect this may often be the case.

I have been on two trips to visit sponsor children.  They were expensive and we may have caused some hardship for those involved in the countries we visited.  However, the moment of meeting my children and getting to spend the day with them will live on in my heart forever.  If I go on another trip I will probably do a few things differently, however, I would still consider going on another trip.

Sightseeing in Kyoto
At the end of July through the first week of August we had a short term team visit us here in Japan.  Although it took a lot of planning and hard work, we felt the two weeks were well worth the effort.  Each team is different, each location is different, but I wouldn't rule out the effectiveness of short term missions teams and trips.

One of the biggest reasons we feel this team was successful was because of all the preparation that happened on both sides of the ocean.  First, this was not a random group who just wanted to go to Japan.  A Japanese pastor, his wife, and I bonded with this group through our time at a youth gathering in California.  We formed relationships that caused the team to want to not only visit us in Japan but also to learn about ministry and to do ministry in Japan.
Fellowship with Japanese pastors

Second, as an NAB family we have a wonderful ministry called Gateway that trains and leads short term teams, especially to NAB mission fields.  Randy Schmor not only took time to train the team, he came to Japan to train us on what to expect and what they would be doing to prepare for their trip.

The team not only learned about Japan and our ministry, but also part of their preparation included intensive Bible study and learning more about what they believe.  In their youth group for the past year they have been going through a study on the foundations of faith which has helped give them a more solid foundation.  They, also, each prepared a testimony to share at some point.  I think they all had a chance to share at least twice.

American Culture Day @ Komyo Church
Another reason the team was so effective was their attitude.  They arrived with a willingness to help us out in any way possible and a humility to listen and to learn, to observe and to try to understand.  This willingness and humility are so important.  After 20 years on the field I am still learning new things every day.  If we arrive in a foreign country thinking that we can do ministry without any help because we have read all the books and watched all the videos, then we are not ready to get our passport.  But, if we do our best to educate ourselves and then arrive ready to learn more, we are ready to get on the airplane.

I have wonderful coworkers who were willing to do everything to help make this experience a success for all involved.  We all feel that it was a success.  The team got to stay in Japanese homes both in Osaka and Chita.  They helped with ministry in three churches as well as at a denominational gathering.  They got to experience Japanese history and religion through our sightseeing days.  And, they even got to spend some time at the beach!
The whole group (picture of a picture!)

We feel the biggest reason this team was successful was prayer support.  The missionaries had all asked their supporting churches and prayer warriors to be praying for the team.  But, the team themselves had a strong prayer base at their home churches praying for them as well.  We are so thankful for all God did over the two weeks they were here!  Praise and glory all go to Jesus!

If you are considering a short term mission experience, take some time to consider these things:
*Why do I want to go?
*Do the people on the other end want me to go?
*How have I/can I prepare?
*Am I ready to listen and learn?
*Is God guiding me into this?
*And, be sure to pray, pray, pray!
There are probably hundreds of lists of things to think about when deciding to join a short term team. These are just the thoughts that popped into my mind as I wrote.

Here are a couple of resources:

Gateway Teams - NAB ministry for those interested in serving on short term teams locally and globally
Gateway Ministry

Japan Harvest - a magazine ministry of JEMA (Japan Evangelical Missionary Association)  written, edited, and published by missionaries in Japan
Japan Harvest

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