This past week I had the honor of leading a team of 14 college aged students to New York City, one of the most strategic places to do missions and fulfill the Great Commission on the planet. During this past week, our team served multiple times a day assisting with E.S.L. classes with an organization I have worked with a lot over the last decade, Urban Nations. I love their heart, and their vision now to see a church plant with 4 distinct congregations is absolutely God-inspired. I loved getting to see some of my team, who have never been on a mission trip before, be thrown in Queens County, one of the most diverse zip codes in the world. In addition to these classes, our team served two days with Raleigh Sadler, director of Justice for the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association (www.mnyba.org). We served the poor (in which our team served meals for hours outside in -15 windchill with not one complaint!), and the group was introduced to the reality of human trafficking. Thursday night was very impactful for the team as they were able to hear from and interact with a young woman who had been trafficked in the past and is experiencing freedom and victory from it today. I am so proud of this mission team. They were one of the best I ever led. Not once did I ever hear any "real" complaining (and I packed the schedule on this trip), and the team really had a great attitude.
Short term missions through the local church in not simply vital, but necessary component to see followers of Jesus grown and stretched in their faith. Without this trip, many of these students perhaps would have never interacted with some of the cultures they did. They would not have known how to handle diversity to the degree that it is in NYC. For them, they are better for it, and the Gospel has become much more real to them because of this trip. Many would like to apologize for short term missions, saying they are a "waste of resources". I could not disagree more. When we view short term missions as 1) a way to bless brothers and sisters in other areas who need encouragement and extra hands, and 2) a training group for believers to follow Jesus more passionately, short term missions becomes a key component in any church's ministry. When it just becomes about going on a trip, seeing sights, and trying to get as many "saved" as possible, we have missed the goal of what short term missions is all about. Short term missions should be as natural as breathing to the local church, that is, if we are truly in the mind of training and making disciples.
Matthew is 34 years old and currently lives in St Louis, Missouri with his wife Leslie. He serves as the Associate Pastor at The Groves Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri.