Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What I Like About Watchers

Since my last post, a lot of interesting comments from my drive-by shooting of Doers, Watchers and Intruders. So, for the next couple of posts I will try to unpack my thoughts on the subject. Today, what I like about Watchers (short-term mission programs, 1 week to three months).

It will surprise some of you to know that my eyes to the world of missions was through a short-term trip in 1974 to Mexico. I was a pastor in Texas and took a group of teenagers to Monterrey. God used that trip to show me the meaning of Matthew 28:19 ff. Up to that point in life my worldview was parochial and ethnocentristic. For the first time I came to realize that not all people in this world lived like Americans. That trip challenged my view of helping the poor and taking the Gospel to people who had never heard the Good News. It was a defining moment in my life.

THE primary reason for short-term missions is for people to catch a vision of a world that is beyond their own neighborhood. Spending a week or a month in a different country is the hands-on experience of lifting ones eyes and seeing the fields are white ready for harvest (John 4:35). A person can catch that vision if they never leave their community, but it’s better caught than taught when someone touches, feels and smells that world outside of one’s own culture.

Many Doers on the field will tell you that they became career workers because of a short-term trip. There are countless hundreds of people who went on short-term trips who are now active in their local church outreach programs. One of the kids who went with us to Mexico over 30 years ago is now one of our sponsors and active in their community. Short-term projects CAN have long-term implications.

Recently a pastor friend of mine came back from Cambodia. He’s been in ministry for a long time and loves Doers. He has visited several countries down through the years and each time he comes back from a trip he is revitalized for global outreach. Listening to him the other Sunday as he spoke it was obvious his recent trip had an impact on his life. All the reports and slide presentations from Doers visiting his church pale in comparison to his experiencing the field firsthand. Short-term missions can be a great tool for world evangelization.

But, there is a downside to short-term projects, which I will talk about next time.