Latin America

Do Short-Term Mission Trips Make a Difference?

You might think of a short-term mission trip as a cultural experience among new people, an adventure, an extravagance, a vacation, or a chance to taste new foods or buy local crafts. On ANM’s short-term trips, the real purpose is to bless and serve people in another culture.

Brian Mullins, who directs short-term mission trips for ANM, traveled to Colombia this summer with a team from Legacy Church in Greene County, Virginia. This was a short-term missions team ready to do construction, but God used them in more ways than they expected.

“[It was] very fruitful,” Brian said, “and so awesome to see how God used each of us.”

They went to help a local ministry in Colombia by meeting some needs of the ministry’s workers. Christ to the Unreached Tribes, led by Helman and Rosalba Ocampo, has five training schools to take the gospel to the remaining unreached tribal groups of Colombia. Their social outreaches help displaced families. They model the love of Jesus to those affected by the daily violence in Colombia.

Working through challenges

One man on the team shed tears as he recalled the poverty he saw on the three-hour boat ride to get to where one missionary and his family live and work. This poverty challenged the team as they planned their projects for the week. There were so few tools they found themselves sharing the one hacksaw and one multipurpose tool that were available. Amazingly, each day more tools appeared! One team member laughed, “We had to earn the use of more tools.”

They fixed gutters to collect rainwater so the missionaries would be able to bathe. The boards they used to build walls were rough cut and very heavy wood. To the team’s amazement, the local missionary was able to make the boards level using just a machete.

One missionary lady asked them, “If it is at all possible, could you get a light in my bedroom upstairs?” They were able to do that the next day, though they had to use lamp cord, not regular wiring, to run wires in the building. At one time sparks flew, but no one was hurt, just startled by the “fireworks”. After dinner that night, the guys who had done the wiring took the missionary lady to see what they had accomplished: a receptacle, a light switch, and a light bulb hanging in her room. She broke down and wept. They were humbled by her gratitude for the job they had done. A team member named Anthony said, “It’s things like these that we take for granted that mean so much to them.”

wiring a missionary's house in colombia
The Legacy Church team installs electric lighting in a missionary’s house. Helman and Rosalba Ocampo’s grandson (center) helps.

Brian Mullins, the team leader, said of the trip, “The trip to Colombia with Pastor Adam and Legacy Church opened the door to bring the gospel in places where the gospel was refused before. In San Jose, one of the men whom Helman hired to work on a project at a Bible training center came to know the Lord during a time of worship and testimony the last night we were there.” (Read the story of a witch doctor learning about Jesus here.)

Changed by the experience

One young lady on the Legacy team was impressed by all Helman had suffered as he worked to spread the gospel in Colombia: he has been poisoned, kidnapped, shot at, and chased away from a village by men waving machetes. Yet he still goes back to tell the news about Jesus. Many locals began following Jesus because of Helman’s persistence and God’s protection over him.

This young lady felt convicted about fearing to share the gospel in her hometown. She said, “We fail to take risks on behalf of the Lord. We fail to allow him to move in ways that only give glory to him. I hope as we look back 40 years from now, that we can [say we have been] bold for the Lord and have taken risks.”

Another team member shared, “We came with the expectation that we were there to help them and serve them, but they were constantly giving to us. It was amazing to see the love of God through them that way.”

So do short-term mission trips make a difference? Yes—they touch lives as each person shares what God has given them.

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