This past week, we had the chance to host a short-term medical team here in Kenya. Since I am in Kenya for three months, to watch the team come and to watch them leave a week later was a learning experience for me. Even in a small way, my perspective allows me to see a part of the before and after of short-term missions. 

Short-term teams have received a lot of criticism over the past few years. There are many who question this model of coming and going. And these concerns are well-founded. Far too often, mission trip teams from the U.S. descend upon a poor, developing country, spread some good cheer (and probably some candy), and leave leave little behind when they are gone. There are no local leadership structures to support programs that the short-term team has hosted, and the team has invested little of their time into actually equipping those who have been left behind.

With all this negativity, we cannot help but ask, “Why keep sending teams?”

Fortunately, all short-term mission trips are not created equal. There is a better way. The church in the U.S. can still continue to send teams to their brothers and sisters overseas. However, there are a few things that we must consider.

Short-term teams must have long-term goals. Building a church building, hosting a VBS, and running a medical clinic are all realistic purposes for a short-term team. But let us not get so caught up in our own short-term goals that we miss the bigger picture. We must approach and leave a mission trip knowing that we are entering into someone else’s everyday reality for only one week. We must ask ourselves: What will be different when we leave? Is there local leadership in place to support this after we are gone? How can we help to equip local leadership for long-term success? You see, we must be able to look past our short-term perspective and to consider not only the week but also the years to come.

To enter into the daily reality of another requires both humility and commitment. We must come willing to acknowledge our lack of knowledge. When we minister cross-culturally, there is a limit to how much we can understand. When short-term teams partner with the local church and come alongside the vision of local leadership, the work accomplished in a week  has a better chance of being sustained. We cannot approach overseas partners with our own agenda. Because their perspective into their culture is more insightful than ours, we must be willing to own their cause.

As we come alongside local leadership and lend strength to their programs and goals, we come as partners in the Gospel. Even as we unite for this same goal- the advance of the Gospel for the glory of God- we must also recognize that the methods to do this will be different within different contexts. Therefore, we come willing to lay down our we-know-best attitudes and to become humble learners instead.

This team from Grace Church was one aspect of a much bigger partnership.The team came in support of the long-term goals of local leadership. They were willing to work hard in order to support our sister churches here in Kenya. I watched them die to themselves and to some of their cultural preferences. The impact they left, Lord willing, is a positive example of partnership and support.

Now that the team is back home, local leadership in Kenya continues to carry out their ministry. Pastors have connected with many in their community because of the four day medical camp last week. Their ministry is stronger now than it was two weeks ago. The churches that have hosted medical camps over the past few years are growing, and their communities have seen that these churches care not only about their spiritual futures but also about their physical struggles now. For the local church to be empowered and encouraged in their daily ministry means that these trips have a purpose that lasts beyond each teams’ time in Kenya.

-Megan Gaminde, Kenya

“And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.” (2 Corinthians 4:15 NLT)

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“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Philippians 3:20-21

The gospel is the unifying force that crosses cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. Through the cross of Christ, we all have the same hope. Poor or rich, hungry, lonely, overworked or underpaid, incompetent or talented, drowning in debt, mentally unstable, overweight or athletic- all of us are hoping and longing for new, glorious bodies in which we will be like Him. All searching, longing, struggling, and striving will be satisfied in Him. And the displacement we all feel at times in this world will be no more, because we belong with Him.

We will see His ultimate redemptive power in the world, and we will experience true life through the resurrection of these tired, old bodies. The result will be an unending celebration of His glory and power. “Behold, He is making all thing new.” Oh, what a day when we can stand before Him and say, “You have made all things new!”

All things will come under His benevolent, compassionate, omnipotent rule. There will be peace. There will be justice. The world will be made right. We will rejoice over the work of His hands; work that, even now, is beyond our wildest imaginations. We will fully understand the depth and damage of sin because we will revel in His new, perfect world- a world where all glory is rightly placed on the Creator.

The light and joy of that coming day makes our current struggles dim in comparison. (Lord, keep our eyes and our hearts focused on this future hope!) Since we can place our trust in the hope of the promised, glorious return of our Savior, we can rejoice in our sufferings and even help to carry the weight of suffering for others. This means that today we can move confidently into the difficult,  challenging circumstances of others. Jonathan Edwards once said, “If our neighbor’s difficulties and necessities are much greater than ours and we see that they are not [likely] to be relieved, we should be willing to suffer with them and to take part of their burden on ourselves. …[or] how do we bear our neighbor’s burdens when we bear no burden at all?”

By living in the now, but hoping in the not yet, we can willingly and humbly lay down our time and our resources for the good of those around us. When our hope is rightly placed, we can help the single mother next door by providing free childcare. We can donate our professional skills to a local nonprofit. We can spend less of our money on ourselves and more on those in need. All because the day of ultimate redemption and restoration is coming. The sacrifices we make now will be revealed as light, momentary afflictions in comparison to the eternal weight of glory that is coming.

“So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things the we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

-Megan Gaminde

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When I learned about the mission trip to Eleuthera, I felt a little skeptical.  I heard from leadership that the trip would be an incredible experience, but every time I told a friend or family member about the upcoming trip, I received the same sarcastic but well-meaning response, “A mission trip to the Bahamas, how’d you get forced into that?”  The idea of a mission trip to a beautiful location like the Bahamas is difficult to initially understand because American culture usually thinks of nothing more than 5-Star vacation resorts, white sandy beaches, and crystal blue waters. Rarely considered are the lives of the inland locals.  I’ll be the first to admit that I fell into this trap, and I started to look more forward to the adventures on the island rather than the expectations of how God could use our team to help the Doster family and the surrounding locals.  However, my focus quickly changed once the team landed in Eleuthera and I saw firsthand the local poverty and how God uses the Doster family to bring the Word of God into a corrupt system.

Our Eleuthera Bible Training Camp schedule was simple: we worked hard, played hard, and had sessions (worship and discussions).  Initially, it appears our itinerary could have been altered to increase our productivity by removing adventures from a day or two.  We could have easily traveled to Eleuthera, worked every day, never laid eyes on a beach, and completed a monumental number of tasks for the Doster family.  However, the trip was about more than just work; it was about fellowship, discovering more about our Creator, and learning about how Christian leaders can make a difference in our own communities back home.

During our various excursions on the island, like snorkeling, cliff diving, fishing, and spelunking, we witnessed God at work.  Every experience we encountered pointed us back to God.  His beauty is everywhere, and, if one takes the time to slow down and observe it, the glory of the Creator is most evident.  At the Glass Window, the narrowest point of Eleuthera, both the Atlantic and Caribbean are seen in full array.  The Atlantic, raging and powerful, is a perfect example of God’s wrath and judgment, while the Caribbean, calm and peaceful, reveals to us His mercy.  Another influential metaphor was revealed while we were exploring the caves.  At one point, all lights were turned out and we all sat in complete silence.  The silence and total darkness made me keenly aware of the constant noise in our culture. There are so few moments, if any, when we aren’t absorbed in the everyday noise of iPods, phone calls, or text messages. This experience was a perfect reminder of the importance of taking time out of my busy schedule to sit in silence, pray, and listen for God’s voice.

Perhaps the most powerful image of faith on the trip came from a small, Haitian church on the island. This church service was all in French Creole, a language that most of us could not comprehend; yet, we all were moved by the power of the locals’ worship and the encouragement in their words. In the congregation, there was a man named Gilbert who recently suffered a terrible tragedy.  His son just died that week, and his wife, who traveled back to Haiti to bury their son, he learned, would not be allowed to reenter Eleuthera. This man, living in poverty, surviving at the low end of a flawed hierarchy, and suffering the recent loss of his son and wife, had the biggest smile on his face that Sunday morning.  After all of his pain and suffering, which would cripple many strong men, Gilbert continued to put his faith in the sovereignty of God.  He took comfort in the knowledge of God’s perfect plan. His story reminded me that the Lord is always with us, even when life is unfair or painful, and that we can always find comfort in our Father’s embrace no matter the circumstances.

Looking back, I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to go on this mission trip.  I had the privilege of meeting twenty God-fearing men who taught me so much.  Getting to know these men and their stories, each one unique in its own way, provided me with godly insights in relationships, friendship, work ethic, and patience that I can use in my everyday life.  I enjoyed every moment of this trip, whether it was working in the hot sun, relaxing on a beautiful beach, or arguing about the rules of corn hole. I am so thankful for this wonderful opportunity and all the valuable lessons the Lord taught me through it.

I would also like to thank the Doster family for their hospitality.  Keith, Lori, Sarah, and Emory, you guys are awesome!  I know I didn’t have too much time to speak with you all, but I enjoyed listening to your stories and realizing how much you love to serve others.  It is obvious that you all have a strong desire to reach out and spread the Word of God to the Bahamians, but God is also using you to provide a powerful testimony to everyone that you come in contact with at the Eleuthera Bible Training Camp.  Thank you again for everything!

-Eric Williamson | CE Cultor House Intern

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