Mike Sandusky serves as the BCM director at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.
When it comes to taking mission trips, there are varied opinions and philosophies about how mission trips should be done, especially when it comes to how long a mission trip should be. One of the main questions is whether taking a short-term trip that ranges from a few days to a few weeks, is beneficial. Is there any value in taking such a trip, or could it be labeled as a “spiritual vacation?”
As a campus minister who sees missions as a key component of collegiate ministry, I have often heard this concern voiced from people within churches, from parents, and even from students. From years of involving students in mission trips that range from four days to fourteen days, it has become evident that mission trips, regardless of how short or how long, can have an eternal impact on the Kingdom of God and on the life of the student.
Three years ago, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM) at Southern Arkansas University (SAU) took a ten-day mission trip to Southeast Asia to serve with some career workers with whom we had developed a partnership. There was a student named Levi who was interested in going but was also struggling with the idea of whether there could be any effective ministry done by outsiders in such a short time. Levi decided to go ahead and participate. What happened in those ten days was life-changing for him. God used that brief time to open Levi’s eyes to the possibility of long term/career missions. God began to place the Muslim people upon his heart, and he began to forge relationships with Muslim students back on the SAU campus. Levi then committed the next summer to serving with Nehemiah Teams in Canada with a project that primarily focused on reaching Muslims. Today, Levi is serving with Hands On, a six-month mission project in the Middle East. It can be said that that ten-day trip had a huge impact on his life.
A second student named Shelby had a similar experience. After a campus worship service that focused on missions, Shelby expressed interest in serving in missions. At the time, she was struggling in her Christian life, and there were concerns as to whether she should serve. The BCM took a spring break mission trip to Panama City, Florida, to do disaster relief after Hurricane Michael. Through serving, Shelby began to recapture her desire to follow Christ, and it also strengthened her desire to serve God through missions. After some intense discipleship meetings, Shelby served that summer in Romania through Nehemiah Teams. It was a growing time for her, but it was also an experience that strengthened her resolve to grow stronger in her faith and to serve God through missions. Shelby departed for North Africa in August to potentially serve for up to a year.
The impact that short-term missions can have on an individual is immense. Besides the impact that it can have on one’s personal life, there are other benefits as well. It gives participants an opportunity to partner with career missionaries and see firsthand the Cooperative Program at work. They quickly see the value in giving to the local church and in turn, supporting missionaries around the world. Short-term trips can open the eyes of participants to how to pray for missionaries, as well as the people they serve. There are also opportunities to start relationships with locals and then maintain those relationships through social media. Students have been able to continue to serve after the fact by sharing the Gospel online with people they met on a short-term mission trip.
Missions, whether short term or long term, are absolutely meaningful and impactful in every way. If one person surrenders their life to God, it is worth it. If one person is called to serve long term, it is worth it. If one person is challenged to grow stronger in their relationship with God, it is worth it. Find out for yourself! Go and see what God can do through and in you!