Making $ense of STM - Part III: Patience

Let’s recap. Short-term missions (STM) have a branding problem. They can serve our egos more than the mission of God—yet, as Christians we are called to be a part of the mission of God which has no short-term and is always moving, always loving, and always serving. A solution to our obsession of STM involves putting down the shovels and paint brushes and picking up a notebook and pen. If we go, we go as learners—preparing to serve the mission of God by witnessing the image of God on a people group we have never met. There is value in “only” learning while witnessing the work of the missionaries and national Christians during a STM trip. 

Full Disclosure: Because of my immaturity, I was once chosen to “not go” on a STM trip.

In the mission of God, before we can be a co-worker we must be patient (read: wait) to allow his mission to be formed in us. God can do that with or without STM, and I contend that our obsession of doing STM can be an obstacle in the formation of the mission of God within us.

The story of that confession begins the summer between my 8th and 9th grade years when I wanted to go on our church’s annual STM trip. Naturally, so did everyone else in my youth group. But with limited space (20 teens/parents), I didn’t make the cut. I was crushed. I wanted to serve. I wanted to grow closer to my youth group. I wanted to see the world. Do you see the problem? The trip would have been all about me. Although my 14 year-old self was crushed, I survived after being upset then angry then upset again. The three following summers I did have the opportunity to serve on four STM trips, but I now believe I learned more not going on that first STM trip than had I gone. 

Let me explain. Our 21st century has exalted instant gratification. We have fast-food, fast cars, and we can fly half way across the world in a day. Patience in the form of waiting may be the most neglected discipline and easily the least practiced. While we can access most anything we need or want within a few minutes; they do not necessarily translate well for our spiritual disciplines, nor the mission of God. For example, Moses was 80 years old when he met Pharaoh. The greatest prophet and priest of Israel got a late start to the mission of God—unless we see the significance of his 40 years as a shepherd. In those formidable years Moses was learning how to lead with patience in the mundane ordinary work of a shepherd. Turns out it worked. Numbers 12:3 says that Moses was the meekest man on earth. He was a faithful witness to the mission of God. As co-workers in that same mission, the most important task we do is not doing at all—but being a child of God. 

After being denied entry into the STM circle, I now see that is was an opportunity. An opportunity to wait in patience for the Lord. That year was probably one of the most difficult in many ways yet one of the most maturing years I had in junior high and high school. Turns out God wasn’t concerned about my lack of STMs experience. He was challenging me to join his every day mission which has no short-term and is always moving, always loving, and always serving.

This was part three in a series on Short Term Missions. Read parts 1 and 2 on our website.