A group of people are on their way to another part of the world. They are not going for tourism or pictures. Their trip is not for business. They are going as part of their Christian faith, intending to serve the people of that land. It sounds pretty straightforward when we phrase it like that, but let's look a little deeper. Who are the people involved? What relationships connect them?
Relational Group #1: The Short-Term Ministry Team
This team is traveling to make a difference. There is a leader or a leadership team within the group, and there are others who each have particular roles. The members of this group are not all the same. There are differences in age, gender, experience, gifts, and responsibilities within the group.
Relational Group #2: The Short-Term Team and Long-Term Mission Workers
Short-term mission teams almost always work alongside long-term mission teams. A family or group that has lived in the new country for years will coordinate with the short-term team. The long-term workers can provide needs like housing, food, and transportation. The short-term team offers work or other service, financial resources, and needed skills ranging from prayer to construction.
It is easy for short-term teams to forget that part of their calling is to build a healthy relationship with long-term missionaries already on site. At the same time, the long-term group needs patience and wisdom to balance the needs of the short-term team with the realities of life. There are times when the expectations of the short-term team are simply not possible, and it is up to the long-term team to shepherd them.
Relational Group #3: The Short-Term Team and National Believers
Whether the short-term team is working on a construction project, providing medical relief, or leading a children's Bible school, there will almost always be interaction between them and the local Christian community. This relationship requires a level of cultural awareness on both ends, so that the traveling group has some idea about the life patterns of the national church, and the national church has insight into the lifestyle of the visitors.
Relational Group #4: The Short-Term Team and National Non-Believers
The goal of the traveling group is to share the Gospel with non-believers in a new place. Every time the visiting group enters a restaurant, gets on a bus, or walks down the street, there will be opportunities to interact with the people who live there. It is very important to work to break down cultural barriers and refrain from alienating them.
Relational Group #5: Global Workers and God
Horizontal relationships are simply the relationships between people, like the ones discussed above. But there is another relationship that is more important than any other! All of the groups just mentioned are also in a vertical relationship, or a relationship between people and God.
How is God at work in the short-term team? What is he doing through the long-term presence of a mission team? How do they mesh together? What is God doing to open hearts to his gospel? Are the short-term members watching to see God at work?
We all know of short-term mission trips that were focused on completing projects. Working for others is certainly important! But at CultureBound, what we encourage you to add to the work is relationship. On your short-term trip, our prayer is that you can wed together a focus on the projects before you and the relational needs of the people.