short term

From the Editor (Issue 28)

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Short-term mission. Though less than 60 years old, it’s become incredibly popular… and notoriously controversial. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on these trips each year, but is that justified? Do they produce any fruit? Do they cause more problems than they solve? Are they actually just a Christianised form of ‘voluntourism,’ a way to have a feel-good experience (often at someone else’s expense)?

In this issue of Intermission we’ll look at some of the inherent problems with the way short-term trips are often done. We’ll then offer some ideas about how you can avoid the pitfalls, creating short-term experiences that have lasting value and which are mutually beneficial for those going and those receiving. It’s essentially a reflective commentary on two biblical themes – our call to go (e.g. Matthew 28:19) and our call to embody the ‘for-others attitude’ of Jesus (e.g. Philippians 2:1-11).

We’ve framed this edition to not only be useful for general discussion groups, but also as a resource for NZCMS ‘Encounter Teams.’ Even so, the principles also apply for mission in our own backyards. So, regardless of whether you’re ‘going’ or ‘staying,’ we hope this will spark good conversation and inspire you to action.

Issue 28 of Intermission looks at the ‘Paradox of Short-Term Missions.’ Occasionally we’ll highlight an article by including it in our weekly Interchange newsletter.

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of the Intermission magazine will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. To signup to receive the Intermission in the post, email Intermission articles can also be found online at

Melodies, Paper and Checkers

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Here’s an article by Caleb Holland from Alaska. He was part of a recent YWAM team from Honolulu who worked with Anne McCormick at the World Mate Hospital in Cambodia for five weeks.

The word ‘love’ is often misused if you ask me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a friend of mine say “Goodness! I love iced tea,” I would be a very wealthy man. They don’t actually ‘love’ iced tea. I understand words can change meaning as time progresses and culture changes, but something about ‘love’ is to be revered. It’s a precious word; a word that should be preserved for when it has the most meaning and impact. It can restore the broken. It can bring joy. It saves and creates life.

I love this hospital. The team I travelled to Cambodia with loves this hospital. The volunteers love this hospital. And this hospital has loved us. They say if you live in a place long enough, the building or house will adopt some of your characteristics. Though I have only been here a short time, it has become very clear to me that this place has been filled with loving people. When you enter, you’re greeted with compassion, and when you depart, it sends you away with a longing to return.


Most days, we sing. When I heard we were singing, I was giddy. Christmas carolling is one of my favourite things back home; spreading joy and all of those niceties. Little did I know that we were singing in Khmer. Learning second languages has always been especially difficult for me (singing makes it a bit easier I admit), so long story short, this wasn’t going to be anything like Christmas carolling.

We walked down to the wards for the first time and I was nervous. I didn’t want to mispronounce some words and mistakenly belt out profanities. The team all readied our voices and waited patiently for the waving hands that meant “start singing”. Suddenly, the hands began to wave, and before I could think, Khmer songs flew from my mouth. I looked at the patients/visitors and they seemed pleased. Whether they were pleased because of our mispronunciations, or because we sounded angelic, didn’t matter to me anymore; if they were pleased, we were doing something right.

Being able to make people smile is probably one of the biggest things we take for granted. Every human being has the capability of brightening someone’s day. With a song, a joke, or an encouraging word, we can make painful circumstances more bearable. You don’t know what people are going through in their heads or their hearts. Who knows, perhaps you making them smile was exactly what they needed to keep on pushing.


Being able to create things is pretty spectacular if you stop and think about it. You’re taking things that are already their own separate entities, repurposing those things, and combining those things to make a singular thing. It’s astonishing, and we got to do that here with making paper. Essentially, you take whatever paper-like substances you have, throw it into a machine, get some mushy stuff, and one tray later you’ve got paper! It doesn’t sound very exciting written down, but that’s perhaps because I haven’t told you that you can throw coconut husks and old sheets into the paper mix. Got an ugly shirt for your birthday without a return receipt? Don’t re-gift it! Turn that thing into paper. The possibilities are quite literally limitless. And there’s so much more that comes out of it than fun. There’s a lot that separates man from beast, and creativity is among that lot. For me, and I’d say most of humanity, being able to create is an essential part of being human. It can provide therapy, it can entertain, and it can create civilizations.

Games and Puzzles and Such

There’s a certain chapter of our time here at the hospital that I would consider being my favourite. All of the chapters are good, of course, but I thrive in board games and puzzles, and if I thrive in something it’s going to be my favourite. You take this cart full of an assortment of games and keep your eyes peeled for those who look in need of some competition. Once you’ve found your competitor, let the sparks fly. The best part is teaching them how to play. Warning: they’re quick learners.

I specifically recall this one time when I was playing some checkers with a thirteen year old boy. The boy had what appeared to be a broken leg, and an even worse case of “Man, I wish I could get out of this bed and play some games.” I gestured the game of checkers, and through some persistence, he agreed to do battle with me. As I taught him the rules of the game using charades, I told myself “Caleb, take it easy on the guy; he’s new and no match for your chess expertise.” As the game began to pick up speed, I noticed I was taking it a bit too easy. I stepped up my game and put on the most intense looking checkers face I could. It wasn’t enough. He was still taking out my pieces. And with every piece he’d take, his grin grew closer and closer to his ears. “Fine,” I said, “no more training wheels.” I took my foot off the brakes and put the pedal to the metal. It was then when I realized a very sad, humbling fact. I’m not good at this game, and this kid was an expert. My last piece was taken and the boy’s right eyebrow was raised, paired with a smile that said “Easy.” I was defeated, but my pride wouldn’t let me leave on that note. So I lost two more times. And though the losses haunted me, the fun and joy from the boy outweighs anything else. And that’s the attitude you get from all of the patients here; fun, joy, and that powerful word I spoke of, ‘love.’ Without love, this hospital wouldn’t exist. Without love one may argue that nothing would exist.


The team cannot express how thankful we are for the compassion and kindness the staff and patients have shown us. Without them, none of this would be possible. They’ve taught us so much through the way they’ve acted around us. And a bit more of a specific, focused beam of thankfulness goes out to Anne McCormick. She has consistently guided us through our afternoons and has been so willing to help and talk with us. I have met very few people in my life who are willing to commit so much of their lives and time to helping others. She and her husband are astounding examples of how to be a blessing to the world. The amount of work they put into creating opportunities for patients to be entertained through their trials is inspiring, and they’ve inspired me and my team to be better people. I could not stress enough how amazing of a place this is. If you’re in Battambang, you should most certainly volunteer here. I’m saying this from personal experience. You’ll learn lessons as long lasting as gold, and far more precious.

The photo above is a picture of Anne with Caleb’s YWAM team.

Moving forward with Haerenga

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You’ll be interested to know how our Haerenga Mission Internship is progressing. Last year we evaluated and reviewed the programme, and we’ve emerged with something exciting that we hope will produce long lasting fruit. What we offered previously was good, but it wasn’t so much an internship as a ‘gap year’ programme. It’s now been reshaped as an actual mission apprenticeship, where young adults are placed under the care of an experienced Mission Partner to ‘learn the trade’ of cross-cultural mission through an integrative, hands-on experience. We hope it’ll be deeply rewarding for those who feel called overseas long-term and those God is leading to workplace mission in NZ.

We’re now recruiting interns who want to be challenged in their faith as they explore what global and local mission can look like. The Haerenga website tells all: A promotional booklet is also available from the NZCMS office. If you know anyone who might be interested, please let them know.

Golden Oldies to visit Fiji Cyclone villages

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Last week we shared about the Golden Oldies Fiji trip coming up in August. (The original article can be seen here.) This year’s Golden Oldies will visit a remote village that had 27/31 houses destroyed in Cyclone Winston. The village is part of the Suva Cathedral Diocese, and the team will hear stories and discover ways they can partner with the church to restore village life there.

Golden Oldies Mission leaders Graeme and Jane Mitchell visited the area two-weeks ago as part of the planning for the August mission. “The devastation is as bad as it looks on TV, yet the people continue to praise God even in their adversity” commented Jane.

They also presented medical equipment to an over-stretched hospital the Golden Oldies support. This was a humbling experience, with people waiting for six hours for medical attention in ankle deep water.

For more information on August’s Golden Oldies trip, including how to apply, click here.



Golden Oldies Mission 2016

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Offering specialist introductory mission trips for seniors.

This year’s ‘Golden Oldies’ trip to Fiji is coming up in August. It’s an opportunity to put your gifts and experience to work as you meet with locals and engage in a variety of mission projects.

Staying at an orphanage we visit schools offering second-chance education for students from squatter settlements, a small health/emergency centre and maternity hospital, an old people’s home in the WW2 barracks, a prison, remote villages existing by subsistence farming, cyclone-impacted villages, and more.

The trip will: • Be fully escorted with experienced leaders • Be based in Suva, Fiji • Will run for 12-days, 9th – 20th August 2016 • Be interdenominational, including seniors from throughout NZ

The team is hosted by the wonderful families of the St John’s Bible College and St Christopher’s Orphanage. We will take you to see and experience the missions the Church is involved around Suva. Also see ongoing mission projects being supported by the Golden Oldies, including the underresourced hospital, a sanitation project in a remote village and a kindergarten established in a church.

At the end of the mission the team run a ‘Workshops for Life’ day which offer a range of topics using the Golden Oldies skills and life experiences. These have been well received by the Fijian community in previous years. Workshops have included crafts, small business set-ups, property maintenance, health clinics and Sunday school teaching. Then to finish off the trip we will take you for two nights at a tourist resort. This gives us time for a bit of ‘R and R’ and reflection for what we’ve experienced before we return to NZ.

Applications close 29 April 2016 BE QUICK! LIMITED POSITIONS AVAILABLE


For more info visit or email

A little old church with a big punch

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An update from the ‘Golden Oldies’ in Fiji. 

St Lawrence Church is the oldest Anglican Church on this island and is over 150-years old – and it looks like it! But this small church wants to spread God’s love into a town where over 50% of its community lives below the poverty line.

Situated in the heart on the main street it is a ‘light of hope’ for the locals that comprise a large number of Hindi faith. A woman’s ministry to new young mothers at the local maternity hospital is one example. Ladies visit weekly and deliver clothing and blankets to the new Mum’s at this bustling hospital that has an average of 3 births/day -on average! The Golden Oldies went and met the nurses and the new Mums with two Mums with one-hour old babies.

This followed to a visit next door where Archer nurse Adele and Junior Golden Oldie Andrea have been working in a 24/7  Health Centre where they attend to 500 patients/day. The medical equipment from Archer residents donations and fundraising was gratefully received and is highly valued. This equipment will increase the number of patients they can see daily and it was heart warming to see how much difference it will make in this community

For more updates from the ‘Golden Oldies’ click here.


Golden Oldies in Fiji

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The latest team of ‘Golden Oldies’ leaves for Fiji today (Saturday) for eleven days. There are 24 members on the team from throughout New Zealand, including several over 80!

They are visiting and ministering in a variety of contexts: schools helping children from squatter settlements, a health centre and maternity hospital for young mothers, an old people’s home in the WW2 barracks. There will be trips to remote villages, and the team will host a mission training day at the Suva Cathedral on Friday. Your prayers during the mission would be appreciated.

Follow the ‘Golden Oldies’ daily at

Golden Oldies Mission: Fiji

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Are you interesting in joining a seniors’ group to visit and experience mission projects in Fiji?

These successful, non-denominational tours have run for the last three years and are designed specifically for our 60+ aged group, the ‘Golden Oldies.’ The mission includes learning about an orphanage, a medical centre and hospital, an aged care home, a variety of churches including the ‘tin cathedral,’ various women’s ministries, and visiting Fijian villages where we see projects to improve housing, sanitation and education. The twelve-day tour finishes with two-nights at a resort to relax and reflect on what God has been revealing to us.

Would you like to know more? Either request our info pack, or come to our no-obligation Golden Oldies info session where you can find out more and meet other Golden Oldies who have been on a previous trip. Perhaps you have a friend who may like to come too?

Golden Oldies Mission Info Session: Wednesday April 15, 10am-11.30am at Archer, 166 Colombo St, Beckenham, Christchurch. Please RSVP for our catering purposes.

Contacts: Graeme Mitchell, Team Leader, 021-460-338, email:;

The Golden Oldies Mission runs 15-26 August 2015. Applications closes 30 April.

Haerenga meets Middleton

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After leaving Waidradra village we got one day of debrief and rest before starting on our next adventure: joining twelve Year 13 students and two teachers from Middleton Grange High School, Christchurch for a whirlwind two week missions trip in the West (along with Jon, the awesome and ever encouraging NZCMS communications guy who doubled as one of the trip leaders).

Initially I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing as I went from feeling like we were almost blending in with the Fijian way of life to again being a very obvious group of white foreigners. However I was quickly put at ease by the way the group approached the trip, being so keen to learn the Fijian ways, to grow and be challenged by what they experienced.

I’m still not entirely sure what our official role was with the team but I think I ended up being a kind of blend of cultural advisor/ big sister/ added volume in songs… basically extra hands for whatever came up. And my goodness plenty came up! It was a bit of a shock to go from our more marathon-like pace to the short term mission sprint. There were school classes to take, sports matches to play, assemblies to run (sometimes off the cuff, a true mission experience!), hospital visits, house visits, village visits, meals with priests, sermons, songs, testimonies, swimming, horse riding and that’s just a taster!

Some stand out moments.

Teaching at a primary school in Sigatoka. Basically our team of four was thrown in front of a group of 50+ excitable Year 5 students in a very small room and asked to entertain the kids for 50 mins. 50 minutes later we didn’t want to stop! I think we all had just as much fun as the kids singing songs, teaching actions and acting out David and Goliath (complete with marching armies).

Warm welcomes. These were had wherever we went but a particular stand out was in Lautoka where all 18 of us were welcomed into the Bishop’s own home to stay. It would have been much less of a hassle and intrusion for our hosts if we had stayed in the church building, but in true Fiji style they would have none of that. What a testimony of the Fijian hospitality and love.

Stepping out. I was challenged to step out of my happy, comfort box and preach my first sermon on Fiji soil. Took me long enough!

The team. It was a real pleasure to journey with the team and watch them go from being awkward bystanders to embracing the culture: being swamped with kids, initiating conversations with randoms and diving into new situations instead of hanging back. Please keep the team in your prayers as they settle back in New Zealand and ponder what God has for their futures.

The Happenings to Come.

I’ll spend the next week in Suva hopefully making the most of my holiday time. I think there’ll be plenty of Skype dates and emails as I assure various family members and friends that I am still alive and kicking after my leave of absence! Following that we start our final (what?!) months placement in St Christopher’s Home which is an orphanage just out of Suva run by some lovely Anglican nuns. From what I can gather we’ll spend our afternoons and weekends with the kids and during the day be involved with ministry stuff in the local Anglican Church of St Christophers or helping the nuns…we shall see what excitement pans out!

Is short-term mission still a thing?

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I’ve just made it back from leading a short-term mission trip in Fiji. I know, it’s hard to believe me when I say we were flat-out the whole time with mission and ministry, but we really were! Which raises the question: is short-term mission valid? Does it actually accomplish anything, or does it just give a bunch of us punk-kids a fun experience at the expense of the locals? Is it just a way of ‘christianizing’ an exotic holiday?

I’ve wrestled with these questions for a good number of years. I’ve seen teams doing a lot of good, but I’ve also watched teams make mistakes – sometimes huge mistakes that almost got other teams banned from visiting some places. So, as I was a leader on this team to Fiji, I was wondering whether or not we should even be there.


Halfway through the trip we were set to run a sports afternoon at a school. When I showed up with the first van load we were tipped off that we’d also be running an assembly for the whole school. The girls were pretty phased, but I knew they had it – and within 10 minutes we had the whole thing planned out… including nominating someone from the next van to share a testimony. When that van showed up we had a total of about 30 seconds to update the rest of the team about the plan – including letting Rach know she would be sharing her testimony in a manner of minutes. Thankfully Rach sits at the far end of the ‘easy-going spectrum’ so she was keen for anything.

The assembly was a hit. Loads of laughter, sharing, singing. And Rach’s testimony seemed to hit home. She shared openly about some of the struggles she has been through, and despite being from a totally different culture and from very different backgrounds, my impression was that this was precisely the message they needed to hear.

Before we transitioned into sports I quickly announced that Rach would be around in case anyone related to her story and wanted to chat. And then, with all the commotion that comes from a group of Kiwis playing netball against a group of (very good!) Fijian youth, I forgot all about it – that is until I was about the jump in the van to leave. I did a check to see where all our people were, and as I looked over the court-yard I saw her chatting with three girls. It was that moment that convinced me there is still a place for short-term mission. An outsider had come in and, perhaps precisely because she was an outsider, was able to share a message that spoke to where these girls were at. Had anyone else tried addressing the difficult issues Rach raised, I’m not sure the message would have made it through.


I’ve become a little sceptical of short-term teams, but this trip restored my belief in them. There are ways of doing short-term mission in a sustainable, generous, gracious way.

In Romans 1:11-12 Paul wrote how he was excited to visit the Roman church (a short-term visit perhaps…) so that he could bless them… but also so they could be a blessing to him. And that’s what mission is all about – a mutual blessing, a give-and-take relationship, an interdependence between the ‘mission-er’ and the ‘mission-re.’ It’s often argued that “so long as the team learns something, it’s ok that it produces no fruit” – never mind any offence done to the hosts, the undermining of long-term work, the negative attitudes they may bring (check out these four points from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary). But short term teams really can be like Paul’s experience – they really can benefit the people while also benefitting the team.




What do you think? Should short-term mission teams still be a thing? What is your experience of being on a team? Of hosting a team?



Is there a group in your youth group or school that would benefit from a short-term mission encounter? Why not get a discussion started – plus we’re here to help get you and your group out there!