Mission Trips: A Glorified Vacation?

Jan 17, 2017 | Terra Hensel

“What can you really do in 6 weeks overseas? Never mind a one week trip! Certainly you are just using the name ‘mission trip’ to justify a very expensive vacation.”

Answering Hard Questions About The Purpose & Strategy of Mission Trips

You’ve heard many things said about mission trips. The array of opinions is wide.

Have you ever heard these ones?

“What can you really do in 6 weeks overseas? Never mind a one week trip! Certainly you are just using the name ‘mission trip’ to justify a very expensive vacation.”

“And while we are on the topic of money, why are you asking people to donate so much money!? That can’t be a wise use of funds. You should just send all that money to the local Christians and stay home.”

“Local Christians and long-term workers are certainly way more effective than you. What type of impact are you expecting to have in such a short time? Meaningful relationships are what God uses to change lives, and you just won’t be there long enough. Never mind the fact that you would be trying to do all this cross-culturally!”

Not A Vacation, A Key World-Changing Strategy

These statements might make you flinch, but there is no need to turn away from the questions. We must understand the cost and the benefit of sending 300+ short-term workers to the mission field year-after-year with Power to Change – Students. Why do we do it? Why do we mobilize students to give their Reading Weeks and summers, and ask donors to give their money to mobilize short-term trips? Isn’t it just a glorified vacation?

We want to see God’s kingdom built on university campuses in every country. We long to see each one become an indigenously-led ministry full of student-led ministries that are themselves sending labourers to the world. This is why we partner with places like Peru, Paris, Denmark and other more sensitive locations. We send our mission trips to places where we have committed to a long-term partnership.

“These statements might make you flinch, but there is no need to turn away from the questions.”

Five Reasons We Send Short-Term Mission Trips

It is through long-term partnerships that we can participate in seeing God raise up indigenously-led ministries that are reaching students with the message of Jesus and sending them to the world. Students everywhere discovering Jesus and God’s kingdom being built on every shore… That is the goal, but what about short-term trips specifically? How do they fit into our strategy of long-term partnership?

We mobilize students to go on short term trips to accomplish five purposes:

1. To Cast Vision For The World

Nothing writes God’s passion for people who don’t know him, cements his call to make disciples of every nation, or transforms a heart like setting foot on foreign soil with the express purpose of sharing Jesus.

You look into the eyes of these beautiful people who don’t know Jesus. You smell and see and taste the culture. You pray against the weight of spiritual oppression, and a tender stalk of compassion grows in your heart.

You meet national Christians who praise God for your presence and somehow take courage from your trek to their nation. The world is no longer out there, or over there, it is right here in front of you, in your gut and raking its fingers down your soul. You give your prayers, your time, your voice, and sometimes your health to this place.

In return, you begin to understand why God loves the world.

“Nothing writes God’s passion… cements his call to make disciples of every nation, or transforms a heart like setting foot on foreign soil with the express purpose of sharing Jesus.”

2. To Invest In A Local Ministry By Preaching The Gospel Boldly And Surfacing Spiritually Interested People

Long-term commitment through partnership with a local ministry on the ground fosters growing ministries. Bold preaching is God’s light breaking into the darkness of these campuses; something always worth doing.

When we walk in faith, we are often blessed to see God bear the fruit of new believers, and spiritually interested people.

In some locations, our presence means volume. We can talk hundreds of people in one week, something that local staff and students are often not able to do. In other locations, we have more freedom and flexibility as short-term workers, than long-term workers ever would, to surface and find truly interested people.

As local ministries grow, we are often given the opportunity to inspire and train local students, in addition to preaching the gospel. This is one of the areas where we have seen some awesome fruit in our previous partnership with the United Kingdom. Jonny, a staff worker in the UK, had this to say of our recent visit:

“In Nottingham, it was a huge blessing to be visited by a dozen people who are all passionate about the gospel, full of energy and enthusiasm, and solely dedicated to being God’s witnesses on the campus for that week.

We were able to accomplish things that would never have been possible without them. Throughout their time, they spoke with 150 people and got the name of Jesus on the agenda of many students. They were also key in helping to advertise the ‘Porn Again Christian’ event we ran during the week. Over 100 students came to hear Teresa’s (an ex-porn star) journey of faith.

As Mandla, one of our student leaders, puts it, ‘the passion and enthusiasm they brought really helped give us a new wave of energy, and their boldness challenged us to engage with students with a more expectant, outgoing attitude.'”

“We can talk hundreds of people in one week, something that local staff and students are often not able to do. In other locations, we have more freedom and flexibility as short-term workers, than long-term workers ever would, to surface and find truly interested people.”

3. To Raise Up Long-term Labourers

Mission trips mobilize full-time interns and long-term labourers. The need for long-term labourers to pour out their lives on foreign fields has not diminished through the years. If anything, the opportunities and the needs continue to overwhelm the few who go.

If we are serious about helping fulfill the Great Commission, giving people of all nations an opportunity to embrace a relationship with Jesus, we must passionately put forth the call to go and give our lives to foreign missions.

Through our Reading Week and summer trips, we expose students to the very real and very specific needs that we face in international locations. We profile and call for students to give a year or more to serve as an international intern, and the amazing opportunities to serve as a full-time international labourer.

With God the benefits always seem to overflow to a greater degree than anticipated. And so we find with short-term mission trips. Here are just a few more benefits of these amazing trips.

4. To Train Canadian Students to Impact Canada

Students who go to the world and spend a focused time sharing their faith come back to Canada with a deeper understanding of how to share Christ, how to be bold and deeply compassionate, and more importantly how to trust God.

The impact on their campuses, friends, and families back at home is immense.

5. To Mobilize The Body of Christ To Send

Sending 300+ students and staff to the world each year necessitates raising up an army of prayer and financial partners to get them there.

As pastor/author John Piper reminds us, there are only three responses to the Great Commission, “Go, send or disobey.”

Giving the church opportunities to participate in sending is a great and noble thing. Through students, we ask thousands of people to advance the cause of Christ with their hearts, time, and money. We have much to celebrate when the Christians of Canada love and serve Christ by cheerfully giving to help others discover him.

“Giving the church opportunities to participate in sending is a great and noble thing. Through students, we ask thousands of people to advance the cause of Christ with their hearts, time, and money.”

Don’t Let The Pictures Fool You

So, glorified vacation? Don’t let the pictures of the African lions, Big Ben or lush beaches fool you.

Short-term trips have a significant impact on the world. They move the work forward, do front-line evangelism and discipleship, and raise up the next generation of senders and go-ers.

Through our partnerships and the amazing opportunities afforded us through short-term trips God is advancing his kingdom on university campuses around the globe. Praise God!

Would you consider adopting a specific trip to pray for? Click here to view the list of trips and partnerships. May our faithful prayer result in much fruit as many discover the life-changing message of Jesus.

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About the Author

Terra Hensel

Terra Hensel has served on staff with Power to Change – Students for over 12 years. Terra is a vibrant and beloved-by-Jesus coffee-snob, project manager, problem-solver and creative. She loves her husband, friends, jazz, books, sewing, singing, and dancing.

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