There are basically three types of mission work being done today by the church. Each fulfills a particular role and purpose, and each is important.
- Permanent, long term mission: This is where a missionary or missionaries go and literally live in the community they are serving, for an indefinite period of time. The persons will become part of the community, often serving a particular need; for example, running a school, a medical clinic, planting a church, teaching, relief efforts, etc... Sometimes the mission itself is permanent, and the people change, but this is an old-school way of doing things. More effective are the relationships built in the community, person-to-person. Often the missionaries have no home in their sending country, relying on the host country for everything. Often families work in this kind of mission together.
- Long-term mission: This is where missionaries go to the community for a long time, but with full intent of returning home shortly. Usually these missions last several months to a year or more. The missionary may maintain a home in their home country, and may travel back and forth. They accomplish much the same roles as the permanent mission, but with more of a focus (usually) on equipping people in the community to fulfill those roles. An example may be a church planter who hands the congregation over to a locally-trained pastor.
- Short-term mission: These are when people go to the host community for a short period of time, usually on the order of several days to several weeks, a season or a semester. The main goal here is to meet short-term needs (a particular project, for example) or to support the longer missions.
Missionary work is life-changing. Let me say that again. It will change your life. Forever.
I was blessed in 2004 with the opportunity to go on a short-term mission trip to Belize in Central America. The trip was organized to support long-term missionaries that Gospel Light had in Belize at the time. We were there for ten days on that trip. I could write a book about it, literally, but suffice it to say I have not been the same since. I saw abject poverty and total faith abiding in the same houses. We were there to preach at various churches, do some teaching, and help build a bathroom. The bathroom had been completed before we went, but we still were able to do much work.
In 2005 I returned, this time with a group of 12 high-school students. We were there for the same kinds of things, and also to participate in a country-wide youth conference. That was another amazing ten days. You can read about that trip here.
I am writing this to encourage two things. First, you should get yourself out there. Mission work is not for the faint-hearted, but it is for you. You don't need to go to deepest, darkest Africa, either. Missionary work can happen right in your own country, right in your own area. Our church has played host to groups who come and desire to do mission work right in our own city. We've done short-term trips in places you can get to in a minivan. There are opportunities right around the corner.
The other thing you can do is support a mission trip already planned. I have a couple of options for you. Our own youth are taking a mission trip to the Florida panhandle this summer. Each youth is raising his own airfare and lodging money by hiring themselves out as labor, doing odd jobs and working at regular jobs. They are going to be doing revival meetings, street outreaches and such. If you are interested in information or supporting, just shoot me an email.
Russ Hutto is talking about a trip that House of Joy is putting together for Honduras. They're going to be doing revivals, worship seminars and children's programs. Check that out over here, and see if it's on your heart to help out.
Whatever you do, do something!