Are Short-Term ‘Mission Trips’ Worth it?

Feb 24, 2023 | News

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By Mike Jessop
NZCMS Missions Intern

From Decem­ber 2022 to January 2023, a group of 38 kiwis went to Nairobi, Kenya for 3 ½ weeks. We were led by Waweru and Mato, two Kenyan pastors serving in min­istry here in New Zealand. We partnered with Nairobi Chapel and got to exper­i­ence their dif­fer­ent out­reach min­is­tries. These included vis­it­ing children’s homes, com­munity centres, and slum areas, par­ti­cip­at­ing in sports min­istry and helping lead on a children’s holiday bible camp. It was an incred­ible, life-chan­ging experience.

Before heading to Kenya, I had a couple of doubts about the trip. One was around whether I could offer any­thing to the people over there. Around 5000 people attend Nairobi Chapel each Sunday. They have 67 staff and hun­dreds of volun­teers. What could I con­trib­ute that could make a dif­fer­ence? I tried pre­par­ing my testi­mony and a few short talks to share, but every time I tried, I was gripped by a sense of inad­equacy. So I prayed to God, and I was reminded of Matthew 10:16–20 and felt him say three words in reply: “Trust in me.”

And so the first Sunday in Kenya, Nairobi Chapel hosted a thanks­giv­ing testi­mony service. A few of us were asked to share a short 3‑minute testi­mony of what God has done in our life (par­tic­u­larly in 2022). Now I don’t like public speak­ing but accep­ted the chal­lenge to share part of my story in front of approx. 1500 people. What was incred­ible was that I didn’t feel nervous and could talk con­fid­ently as I trusted God to speak through me. As I stepped out of my comfort zone and spoke to dif­fer­ent people and did dif­fer­ent things, I learnt to trust in God more. Through this, my faith grew heaps.

The second doubt was won­der­ing if this trip was even going to be worth it. I had spent thou­sands of dollars to go and had spent count­less hours organ­ising fun­drais­ing events, doing train­ings (thanks Alice and NZCMS!) and pre­par­ing to go. I also read “When Helping Hurts” which out­lines how par­tic­u­larly short-term mis­sions can often cause more harm than good. Despite all these doubts, I still felt like God wanted me to go. And I’m glad I did because this trip was def­in­itely worth it!

One thing that sur­prised me was the import­ance placed on devo­tion in Kenya. We didn’t rush off to do things or visit places but rather spent the begin­ning of each day together in worship, reading the bible, sharing testi­mon­ies and praying. This really groun­ded the trip for me, and I, like many others, exper­i­enced God in a refresh­ing, more intim­ate way. I think when we are taken out of what is com­fort­able, it gives God the freedom to be able to work in our lives. I know for myself I had a few things brought to the surface that God wanted me to work on, but I also had a greater sense of God’s pres­ence. One of the beau­ties of having such a large group all step­ping out of our comfort zone is that it created a deep con­nec­tion and sense of whanau quickly. We were there to listen to and support one another.

This also exten­ded to those we meet. We jour­neyed with a team of about 10 Nairobi Chapel staff who showed us dif­fer­ent min­is­tries. We formed rela­tion­ships with the manager, cooks and clean­ers at the retreat centre we stayed at. We con­nec­ted with the kids and youth we met at the dif­fer­ent homes and centres. I was astoun­ded at the con­nec­tions that were formed in the 3 ½ weeks we were there. I believe this was the most impact­ing thing for our group and the most impact­ful thing our group achieved. We wor­shipped together, prayed together, and cried together. Our lives changed together.

On our last day in Kenya, we had a farewell service at Nairobi Chapel. As a part of this service, the church pastors washed our feet. As they served us in this way, they anoin­ted our feet and prayed a bless­ing over us. They spoke proph­et­ic­ally into some of the group. It was an import­ant and emo­tional moment that speaks to the level of rela­tion­ship that was formed.

My exper­i­ence in Kenya has only con­firmed the rela­tional found­a­tion of mission. The Kingdom of God is spread in and through rela­tion­ships with others. Jesus spent his min­istry primar­ily dis­cip­ling twelve men in close rela­tion­ships. If we wish to be effect­ive in sharing the Gospel and dis­cip­ling others, we must begin with the rela­tion­ships and friend­ships we have with those around us.

Mission is a global endeav­our (Matt 28:18–20, Acts 1:8) and so not only are we to connect with those around us but across the entire world. The Kenyan Church has a spir­itual rich­ness that I haven’t seen in New Zealand and the New Zealand Church has some­thing to offer Kenya. So as we formed rela­tion­ships and exper­i­enced the Kenyan culture, I became aware of the import­ance of inter­cul­tur­al­ity within the global Church. As we con­tinue to build rela­tion­ships with the global Body of Christ, we will con­tinue to learn from each other and will only be enriched by it!

Photos from the trip 

1 Comment
  1. Adrienne Rodgers

    If you go with open eyes & mind, so much is gained from these experiences.
    In 1998, en route to a 6 month parish exchange in England with my husband, we had 2 weeks only in Eastern Zambia at the invit­a­tion of Bishop John Osmers.
    All these years later we still have con­nec­tions tho sadly our Diocese link seems non existent.
    What I gained per­son­ally was enormous
    It cost us quite a lot but was so worthwhile.

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