Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Need is Great

Day 2 got our team off to a great start with much hard work on our plate. After a brief tour on foot of the village, the team visited the construction site for Pastor Odmy’s new home, and some stayed to help the Haitian team that was already hard at work. The rest of the team helped with feeding programs and sorted through all of the donated materials that were brought for various purposes.
Our first full day here in Haiti has left many of us with a better understanding of what conditions most in Haiti are living in, and how Children’s Lifeline is helping those in the area. I don’t think anyone could fully prepare to understand just how great the needs are here. From witnessing small children walking around without clothing, to the building project for Pastor Odmy that allows all 12 people in his family (and the many others he lets into his home) to have a place to stay, to the stories of widows who come for a day and a half’s ration of food. These are small examples of just how desperate the conditions are. Bill and JoEllen have been telling us too, that they can get discouraged easily when you start to focus on how great the needs are, they’re endless, but they always tell those who come looking for help that The Mission offers tools and resources, but that God is the bottom line and the ultimate answer. His will be done.
I’ll leave you with a couple shots from the day, and a journal entry by Brandi Bessinger.
-Tim Blaum, River Oaks Community Church
After a noisy night listening to the dogs barking and the rooster start his morning ritual, a new day awaits as we awake very early in the morning. After breakfast we head to “the rock” for devotional time with our family for the week. We have a wonderful team here in Haiti. As we sit together during devotional, we meet the pastor of the village just outside the mission compound. He is a Quiet and compassionate man. I am reminded of why I was called to visit the people of Haiti.
As I reflect on my day here, my mind is directed back to a little boy as we were walking to the dam. This little boy ran up to me and grabbed my hand to walk with me. I asked if he would let me take his picture and he nodded yes. When I was finished he wanted me to show him what I had taken. I realize that this may have been the first time he has ever seen himself.
Words are indescribable to give you my perspective on how these people live. That little boys face lit up when I showed him the picture I had taken of him. He was so excited, and my heart was touched! The people here just want to be loved. They have been very kind and love that we are here to help them. There is much work to be done here in this country as the poverty is unlike I have ever witnessed anywhere else.
Thank you for the continued prayers for our team’s safety & health along with our work together to continue doing God’s will. – Brandi Bessinger

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mission trip or Money?

In the 26 years we have been involved in short-term missions one question invariably pops up over and over again - "should we send the team or send the money?" To properly address this subject, one must consider that there are basically three groups affected by a mission trip: the travelers, the group sending them out, and the recipients at the other end. With that in mind, let's look at the benefits and detriments to each group.

For the travelers, there is ample opportunity for spiritual growth. When you take them out of their comfort zone, I mean literally take away the comforts of air conditioning, computer games, television, Internet, etc, they find that God is speaking to them but they didn't hear Him over the roar of white noise and endless activities that riddled their days and nights. The routine of starting each day in devotional time with fellow Christians and closing the day with discussions of how they saw the hand of God move among them, their spiritual becomes refreshed and revitalized. This is why many say the experience changed their life. Without all the distractions, God's voice seems to be heard clearer, louder, and more frequently. That, my friend, is spiritual growth.

For the church to see grown men weep as they tell of half-naked, dirty-faced little children grabbing their hand and eagerly dragging them to a place where they can twirl a jump rope or kick around a soccer ball is one of those God moments you don't soon forget. When they show the pictures of serving starving children a hot meal or teaching them a Bible story, their smile is just as wide as it was on the day they dropped their daughter at her first day of school, or watched their son hit his first home run, or held their first grandchild. This week long trip was an event that changed their perspective and the spiritual fruit is almost tangible as they tell of their adventure. It awakens the church to embrace in a greater way the Commission to reach the world for Christ.

As a resident missionary, I have to point out the benefits to the community served during that week. For some, it is sweet fellowship with other Christians that makes the world feel smaller and much more friendly. For others, it is an opportunity to receive encouragement, affection, food, water, or medicine at a time when they needed it the most. It may be a song that lifted their spirits, a puppet show that gave them a chance to laugh, a Bible story that made them think about God, but it is a break in the never-ending struggle to just get through each difficult day as best you can. It's a message of hope preached through an interpreter that came when they had all but given up.

The key seems to be in balance or moderation. Some teams come to accomplish something - build a house, a school, a church or an orphanage. Some come to change lives through teaching or preaching or VBS. Some desire to build relationships and mentor and disciple or church plant. A successful team strives to do them all in some form or fashion. The various personalities represent just as many talents and giftings which are used by God to touch lives. When each person yields to God's plan for the week, when they are obedient to His direction, the lives of all who went, sent, or were on the receiving end are changed.

Blessed are the feet of those who go, but also blessed are those who send when they cannot go. Not everyone is healthy or wealthy enough to take a trip. Not everyone feels that tug of the spirit to go. Everyone can contribute to the blessings poured out upon the poor in body or spirit that are touched by the teams. They can pray for those being sent. They can send supplies needed in the field. They can assist with fundraising for the cause of furthering the gospel of Christ. 

There are many ways to reach the lost for the kingdom of God, short-term mission trips are only one way. Each part of the body of Christ must decide how they will answer the mandate to do it. Sending short-term teams is a recent trend in North America. In 2006, over 2.2 million travelers went to foreign mission fields on short-term missions trips. This is either a movement of God for global evangelism or a fad the church has caught the fancy of middle-class churches. Let the fruit of your team returning with stories and pictures convince you of the importance of spreading a message of hope to those who desperately need to hear. Many here will tell you that they will remember the smiles and hugs long after the meal is gone and the shoes have worn out.