Running the Guest House has allowed us the opportunity to see hundreds of missions teams come and go. As part of Heartline, we have hosted many short-term missions (STMs) teams. I am definitively no expert. I don’t promise to have all the answers on this subject because, well, I don’t. To be honest, the few STMs trips I have been on didn’t have all these qualities.
What I do know is that teams, we enjoy and we see as effective, have these qualities I will post about in this series.
Effective qualities of short-term mission teams begins with:
The mission shouldn’t start when the wheels of the airplane touch down in Haiti (or any other country). A highly equipped team will start preparing a year or more in advance before leaving their home country.
Effective teams take the opportunity before they come to learn as much as you can about the culture before stepping foot on someone else’s soil. Learn by watching videos, reading blogs, books, and anything you can get your hands on. You can be prepared by learning about:
- The culture and history
- The partnering organization
- Other organizations in the same country
- The long-term missionaries you will be supporting
Teams that have done this research usually ask the insightful questions and are able to grasp a new level of depth on the issues and solutions. It also shows that the team doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time but are serious about being involved in making a difference.
In the short-term missions workbook by Tim Dearborn he says, The most important aspect of short-term mission service is preparation. The long-term impact of your service will be deeply affected by the quality of your preparation.
Teams that make this upfront investment will increase the depth of their experience and make them a blessing to the culture, their long-term missionary friends, and gives a longer lasting impact for each individual team member.
Make pre-trip learning a requirement, not a suggestion. Simply wanting to go and coming up with the money is not sufficient to qualify somebody to join the team. If people don’t want to spend time to learn before they go on the trip are they really going to have a learner’s mind-set during the trip? – When Helping Hurts
Below are a few book ideas for cross-cultural travels:
Here are a few suggestions for digging into Haiti (though you could do the same type of searches for other countries):
One team, before arriving in Haiti, had setup a small tent city outside of their home town for a weekend. They had setup a limited water supply and made Haitian food for meals. They were attempting to simulate the experience and hopefully better prepare the team for the journey ahead to Haiti. They weren’t going to be staying in tents in Haiti but they wanted to learn more about conditions and what was happening after the earthquake.
This same group spent 2 years preparing for the trip down to Haiti. As you can imagine, when they touched down in Haiti, they were ready.