A taste of missions

Nicole James | Brazil

“People say that mission trips are like vacation. You are going to another country to explore places and have fun…. They don’t really understand what a missionary is,” stated Debora Goncalves, serving in short-term missions for OM Brazil.

While many short-term mission trips do involve going to another country and often take place during school or work holidays, the goal is not for participants to have fun, per se. Rather, it’s a “taste of missions,” Debora described. “You can discover that you have a calling there or you can mobilise your church when you come back.”

Short-term missions on repeat

OMer Cynthia Hansen, who does finances for OM Brazil, first experienced missions on a short-term trip to Guatemala with OM. She spent time sharing the gospel in schools and poor communities, supporting a medical outreach by organising supplies and distributing donated shoes to children in need.

“After I came back from the first trip, I was certain [missions] was what God had for me,” Cynthia related. “I liked my job, but after my experience in missions, I didn’t see the meaning of working there.”

Her parents, however, did not want Cynthia to pursue full-time missions. Instead, they counselled her to finish university, get a car, buy a house. Obediently, Cynthia did what her parents asked. She also continued taking short-term mission trips during her vacations—twice to Guatemala and once to Bolivia.

Eventually, she stopped working altogether and used the severance pay from her job to finance her missions training at OM Brazil. Cynthia had hoped to serve overseas, but lacking financial support, she instead applied her skills to the OM office in São Jose dos Campos for a season.

Short-term trips “change how you feel about missions, how you understand missions. Even if you don’t start doing [long-term] missions right away, you are not the same. You feel very motivated to mobilise the church…. There are opportunities to be involved, even not being a full-time missionary,” she said.

Spreading excitement at home

The most exciting thing about short-term missions is seeing “youth be involved and also understand their calling to be part of missions,” said Simone Aragao, another member of the OM Brazil short-term coordinating team. “I’m really sure that God can talk with them [on the trip]. Sometimes they don’t want to go back again to the field, but they really would like to motivate the church to be involved.”

For the churches, short-term missions trip participants bring the idea of missions closer to home. Usually, when churches hear about missionaries, they are “far from their daily life,” Deborah explained. When short-term participants return home, however, churches can see results straight a way.

Lukas, a youth pastor, travelled to Serbia on a short-term missions trip in December 2016. One month later, he emailed Deborah. “I need a trip for some teenagers in my church,” he announced. “When I went back to my church and talked about what I did, my church went crazy… My teenagers want to have this experience, too!”

Balkans project

In 2016, OM Brazil sent about 40 participants on short-term mission trips. In 2017, they launched the Balkans project, designed to send youth from Latin America on an eight-month trip to one of seven strategic countries.

Gisele Pereira, who spent nine years in Bosnia, affirmed Brazilians’ suitability to serve in the Balkans. “It’s a warm culture. They love talking and being together all the time…. It’s very similar in this way,” she described.

Despite the challenge of first-year communication (Gisele used two dictionaries: Bosnian-English and English-Portuguese to talk to her hostess), Gisele saw God answer prayers for the Bosnian people.

Once, after her hostess became violently sick after mistakenly eating a four-day-old hardboiled egg, Gisele offered mild stomach medicine from Brazil and prayed for the lady. Ten minutes later, the woman had dramatically improved.

“Wow, this medicine was amazing! Can you ask your friends in Brazil to send this medicine to me?” the lady asked Gisele.

“It was very hard to explain to her, but I tried [to tell her] I prayed, because this medicine was nothing,” Gisele recalled.

“Wow, your God is a very strong God,” the woman responded.

The short-term team hopes to use the Balkans Project to mobilise Brazilians as well as youth from across Latin America. “They are very similar to us, and we would like to have more people from our area go there,” Gisele stated. “We have a great potential to go out.”

Pray for the short-term team at OM Brazil to connect with youth interested in missions. Pray that short-term missions participants across Latin America would return to fields in long-term capacities and motivate their churches towards greater involvement in international missions.

Nicole James is an international writer for OM, passionate about publishing stories of God’s work among the nations and telling people about the wonderful things He is doing around the world.

Published: Wednesday, 30 August 2017
Credit: Nicole James
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