For years, I have invited long term missionaries to the trainings I do with short termers. One story in particular stood out… the missionary recounted how the remoteness of their field left little room for luxury. Each time they returned to the USA, they brought back a package of Twinkies for the freezer. On a family member’s birthday, they pulled one out… put a candle in it… and sang Happy Birthday.
One summer, a short term team came. The missionaries offered the typical “mi casa es su casa” to the team but were horrified a few days later when one of their children ran in blurting through tears “They ate the WHOLE Twinkies package!”
Undoubtedly, the short term missionary was hungry for a late night snack, walked to the fridge and said to a teammate “Dude, they have Twinkies in here! Want one?” One simple act of inconsideration obliterated a year’s stash of birthday hope.
Short term missions can easily deflate, discourage and undermine the work of a long term missionary. How do you make sure that your team does the opposite on your visit? Here are a few principles to follow.
1. Go as a servant rather than a consumer. Ask short term participants to discuss how they would want a guest to behave in their own home. Then ask them to apply these thoughts to their stay as a guest with the missionary.
2. Let the missionary set the pace. Sometimes a short term missionary attempts to help by being proactive and creates more work for the host. Show your willingness to help, but let the missionary tell you what to do, how much and when.
3. Remember, they may want something different. It may be that help with the dishes is far less important than the enjoyment of carrying on a full conversation in English. Missionaries have physical and emotional needs that result from their location and service. Be sensitive to these needs and try to meet them, even if they are not so obvious at first glance.