How does one judge the “success”
of a short-term mission trip?
Our Alaska teams were blessed with walking alongside and supporting missionary families who work in remote and difficult situations in North America. One team, of which I was a part, wrote and hosted a Vacation Bible School – type program for the children of the families, while our partner team planned and prepared the food for an entire mission conference. There was nothing glamorous or earth-shaking in what we did. In fact, some moments were repetitious, tedious, and tiring.
Some part of me wants glamor, excitement and attention-getting stories to tell. But search as I might, I don’t find anything in the Scriptures about seeking glamor on a mission trip.
Success is more often measured in small, repeated steps rather than great, sudden leaps. Did we make a difference to the missionary families? Did they make an impact on us? Are our eyes and hearts more open to the need in North America? Is the Gospel being advanced because of this trip? Is God glorified by these efforts? Assuredly, yes, on all accounts, but measuring such kingdom work is outside our abilities. We are called to serve faithfully each day, to love God and His body, to make disciples regardless of location or position. He will bring the results, and we may never see them on this side of heaven.
On Friday, we were able to take a short hike to see a glacier. Along the way, we saw a burbling stream, and several small waterfalls cascading down steep rocks, results of the melting ice mountain in front of us. As I think about the question, “how does water carve rock?” I ponder that sometimes it happens gradually and continually, and sometimes it happens suddenly and drastically. I think God’s work happens in similar ways. Sometimes, we see a person whose life has been shaped by the “drip-method” of faithfulness over years, and other times, we see someone who’s had a dramatic turn-around. While both are valid, in our culture of measuring and counting “results”, it’s easy to overlook or dismiss the long, slow, patient methods God uses.
As we return to normal life this week and prepare for the next busy season of our lives, I realize none of us will ever be the same, because of this trip. We anticipate seeing the unfolding of God’s design over time, and are incredibly grateful for each person who prayed, gave, sacrificed, planned, prayed, hosted, drove, prayed, cooked, cleaned and prayed. We praise God for His provision and sustenance and allowing all of us to be a small part of His plan.
Guest post by SEND North volunteer Alta Johnson