Tips on effective short-term missions

International (MNN) — Short-term mission trips give people a chance to touch and be touched by another culture for the first time, but that doesn’t mean it always go according to plan.

“A lot of times, people in the first world, the people with the money, the people with the power that are going other places don’t realize the impact we have on the cultures we step into,” said Ken Ivins of AMG International. That means suggestions can come across as commands, and nationals will yield to foreigners who don’t even realize they’re taking charge.

(Photo courtesy of AMG International)

That’s why it’s crucial to work with ministries and give them validity rather than taking over, said Ivins. “We need to funnel our ministry through the national ministry and what they are doing to reach their people. If they ask us to do something that makes absolutely no sense to us but is the best way to present the Gospel, then that’s what we will do.”

Even professional construction teams will submit to the advice of the nationals, and Ivins said many medical teams are surprised to learn just how impactful their prayer is, not just their physical work. “Instead of showing up and building something for somebody we’re building something with somebody,” said Ivins.

“We say things the way that they encourage us to say them. We don’t get into battles and conversations of differences. We step into areas that we’re similar in and we encourage them in that.”

Every trip is different, but Ivins said some of AMG’s main goals aren’t even for the nationals; they want to change the travelers. “We want our team members to develop a depth of understanding, to love the people, to step into the ministry, and to learn and to move into foreign missions.”

(Photo courtesy of AMG International)

Ivins said any trip presents an opportunity to learn more. He himself has been to Guatemala 25 times, and yet still won’t claim to be an expert. Each trip also presents new ways to form long-term connections through sponsorship and prayer.

And he believes missions aren’t over when the plane lands back home. “When you’ve seen these things, when you’ve heard these things, when you’ve watched these things, you’re now responsible to share those things with others,” he explained. “Go home and don’t expect people to get it, don’t expect people to understand till they’ve seen it themselves. But at the same time, you have the obligation to communicate to them the needs and the great things God is doing around the world.”

If you want to see how you can experience His work first-hand with AMG International, there are plenty of opportunities right here.