What God is Saying:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

Monday, December 26, 2011

Angels from Scandinavia - the impact of a short-term mission trip

A group of young missionaries from Global Ministries

"And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14

"Before 1991 the Gospel had managed to attract very few converts in a particular district in central India. Seven years later, hundreds of newly baptized believers from at least 24 different people groups are learning to follow Jesus. They are gathering regularly in village level churches...How did so many people suddenly turn to hope in Christ from centuries of practicing animistic spiritism blended with Hinduism?"

Part of the answer lies with short term Christian mission groups, coming to this region of India from around the world. But what are short term missions?

According to Wikipedia, "a short-term mission is the mobilization of a Christian missionary for a short period of time ranging from days to a year; many short-term missions are called mission trips. The short-term missionary is a fairly recent innovation in the global missions movement, but many short-term missions agencies are seeing an increased number of trips that consist of a week up to a year.

Generally, missionaries have been men and women who dedicated large portions of their lives to serving overseas in Christian service. In the past 50 years, churches have moved toward mobilizing young people for short-term trips.

Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and Operation Mobilisation (OM) were two of the first organizations to utilize short term missions. In the late 1950s, OM Founder George Verwer began mobilizing young people for summer missions. In the summer of 1963, over 2,000 people joined the first short-term mission teams with Operation Mobilization. They worked throughout Europe and found creative ways of getting behind the Iron Curtain. 

Youth With a Mission (YWAM) began in the 1960s under the leadership of Loren Cunningham. He pioneered short term missions and introduced the idea that young people could be missionaries. Generally, missionaries were expected to have extensive theological training before going into the foreign mission field, but YWAM provided short-term opportunities for young people who had a passion for Jesus Christ to share their faith in a way that was powerful and effective."

Although some have been critical of short term missions, seeing them as being disruptive and costly, many others look at them as a way to open the eyes of young people to the needs of the world around them. Planted in these short term missionaries is a love for and a concern for the lost, with the hope that these short term missionaries will themselves become either goers or senders in the future.

Despite the controversy over short term missions, God can use them mightily to further His Kingdom and His glory. This brings us back to the district in central India. This movement to Christ began with a local, Christian man who had a burden to share the Gospel with his people. After a few key community leaders came to Christ, they gathered for a week of teaching in which a visiting foreign Christian researcher shared stories of people groups in other countries that were coming to Christ. 

The Indian Christians realized that Jesus was not just a local god but God of the world. "This insight was further reinforced when short-term teams with foreigners would come to help. One such team had located in a village populated entirely by Poharis. The Poharis are highly transient hunters who engage in animistic rituals while honoring Hindu brahminical priestcraft. They had asked for someone to come and teach them about Christ, too. But the only ones available were a short-term team of young Scandinavian women who could not have been further removed from them in almost every way.

While discussing Christ with these young women with pale skin, bright blond hair and blue eyes, the Poharis began telling about a particular priest in their village. Five years prior he had passed through a period when most of the people thought he was crazy. He often seemed tormented by spirits. They brought him repeatedly before various gods and goddesses for healing. All the while he kept saying, 'People who look like angels will come from around the world to our village. They will tell us about the real God. We should follow Him.'

When they asked, 'Do you think that we are those people?' he responded, 'I don't know yet.' But after four days of listening, he trusted the Lord Jesus Christ and received Him as his Savior. In the end, most of those residing in that particular village were baptized."  (excerpt from the article "A Movement of Christ Worshippers in India" by Dean Hubbard).

God began preparing this people group five years before missionaries ever showed up! Though the missionaries seemed foreign to them in so many ways, the Gospel penetrated their hearts and they were changed for eternity. 

For further information on short-term missions, go to Short Term Missions which has links to mission trips with over 100 different organizations. 

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