Short-Term Mission: Check Your Heart

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23-24

So you want to go on a short-term missions trip. That’s awesome!

As someone who has lived on the field for quite a few years now, I appreciate short-term trips because that is how it all began for me. I see the value of them. But I also see the destruction that short term mission’s trips can bring. Really, you could be a great blessing where you go; or you can undo years of hard work. Wanna know how? Read on!

Short-Term Missions

These next few weeks we will unpack this and look at some tips for a wonderful experience for you, the missionaries who you will be serving alongside of, and the nationals where you go.

I am thankful for the teams of people that God brings here to help us over the years. It’s a lot of extra work to prepare for them, but the encouragement to us and to the local believers makes it worth it…that is, most times. Sometimes we get renegades who come in, know everything, and try to run the show. They start throwing money at the local people, make quick judgments on things they know nothing about, insult people and disregard the culture. I don’t think any of this is intentional (at least I hope not). I know that I have inadvertently messed things up myself, particularly when I was new on the field. But that’s why it’s wise for short-termers to come alongside seasoned missionaries, and to submit to their regulations even when you don’t understand them. (If you don’t believe in the mission statement and the way things are done, then go with another organization or group.)

We try our best to give people an authentic experience, but if you really want that you will have to leave your home behind and live here for a long period of time. Trust me when I tell you that what you see on the surface is not real life down at the core, it’s not the actuality of the culture, and you won’t be an expert after spending a few days in a new country. In fact, after about ten years I can confidently say that I am far from being an expert in this culture where I live. I am certainly beyond what I was when I took my first trip here, though. I don’t get everything right (not even close--just ask my husband:)), but I have learned some stuff.

Before you go on a trip this summer, please consider a few things. (If you know someone who is planning to travel, please share this blog post with them.) I would like to share a list of five suggestions to consider before you go. Below is the first. I will share more in the weeks to come.

1)    Check your heart

It’s great that you want to go on a mission trip, but why do you want to? Are you looking for an adventure? Do you want to save people? Or is your heart genuinely to watch God move and to be available to Him and the people?

Adventure is part of the missionary experience and not a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be our motivation. If you only want an adventure--book a safari or exotic vacation. Ministry is hard and seldom glamorous!

 If you want to save everyone--read your Bible. We can’t save anyone, not even ourselves. We are all sinners desperate for God. You are no better than anyone in a third world country or anywhere else, so let go of the God complex and humble yourself.

If you desire to see God move, if you recognize your own inadequacy and His all-sufficient power, then great! Start packing those bags.

If your heart is wrong, repent and ask God to give you His heart for the nations. If His Spirit is in you, and you genuinely allow Him, He will do just that.

I share a lot more about this topic in my book, For the Joy Set Before Us: Insights into the Missionary Journey. For anyone getting started out in missions, this is a good resource to add to your “tool box.”

You can get it on Amazon here:

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts!