by Rebekah Applegate I’ve heard this question a few times when telling friends and family about an upcoming short-term mission trip. Sometimes people ask, “Why go so far away when there are people in need here?” or “Why spend the money on travel when you could just give it to people in that country?” I understand these questions, and over the course of 5 trips have definitely wrestled with them for myself. SO, here is a list of a few of the reasons why I think short-term missions are worth every bit of the time/money/effort that goes into them.
1. We go for God. And I don’t mean this in the cheesy “God is begging for our help” sort of way, I promise. We are fully aware that God is at work all over the world, and that He is the only one who brings change to broken people and broken communities. We need only to look in the mirror to see that He works miracles in people who are lost and enslaved to sin. So BECAUSE of these truths, we celebrate that the God who could work entirely without us chooses to let us be His partners in His plan for all nations and people to know Him. We celebrate this every week as we gather together to worship and go out on mission to Columbia and we do this as we obey His command to go to the ends of the earth.
Today we had our first VBS in a favela (slum) called Rio das Pedras (City of Stones). We were able to be the hands and feet and mouth of Jesus as we sang and danced with the kids, talked and played with them, and told them about our mighty God who created all things yet still loves us all.
2. We go for people of Rio. Rio is a diverse and unique city full of diverse and unique problems. The upcoming World Cup and Olympics have set the city on edge as favelas are “pacified”, a term which sometimes means bulldozing the homes of the poor so that they’ll be out of the way for new stadiums.
Beyond these problems, Rio has a religious climate of cultural Catholicism influenced by African folk religion. A majority of those who call themselves Christian “evangelicals” preach a gospel of health and wealth - often exploiting the poorest. What Karis does here is partner with gospel-centered organizations, missionaries and churches to encourage them, equip them and to help them connect with the children and families of the communities. We do this through bringing supplies, holding VBS, worshipping together and sharing stories of God’s work in our own lives and the hope that He has given us.
Today and yesterday I’ve had the opportunity to spend time talking with our van driver who is not a believer. These conversations are often comical due to my limited Portuguese, but we have talked about our lives and the work that we are doing in the favelas. A few weeks ago George thought that the church was a cult, but now, after spending time with Brazilian and American believers over the past few weeks, calls us friends and is beginning to ask questions about the church and its people.
3. We go for us. When all we have known is the American life and church, our view of God is somewhat limited. God is the same everywhere, but His glory is uniquely displayed all over the world. We clearly see this in the beauty of Brazil and its people, and we see it when we worship with our brothers and sisters here. We hear stories about people who are broken (just like us) and who God has rescued (just like us) and it gives us hope.
We also see things that we simply will not see in Columbia. Today, we took a cable car to the top of a mountain over an enormous favela that covers the mountain on all sides. This gave us the opportunity to see a glimpse of what life looks like for the100,000 people that live there. We saw dirt roads and wild animals roaming. We saw homes that had been entirely destroyed by mudslides. The homes that were intact were about as large as one room of my house. They were dirty and patched with cardboard and were (literally) stacked on top of each other. As we saw this glimpse, we were burdened to pray for these oppressed people. We prayed that they would be able to be safe and healthy, but mostly that they would see that God is the only true hope and that they would live vibrant lives in light in light of this hope. He is the only solution for the long-standing problems like drug trafficking and violence that they face. We also wrestle with how to live as believers in a world where intense poverty exists. It drives us to ask God what he would have us do. For some of us this action will take the form of prayer, for some it will be giving, and for some it will mean going long term. Short-term missions are where long-term missionaries get their start.
4. We go for YOU. We can’t all pack up for a week and go to Brazil every year. We have jobs and babies and lives that can’t easily be left. But, even if you don’t go this time, we hope that through the sharing of our experiences we can give you a small picture of the global work of God. We hope that you will be encouraged to pray for Brazil. We hope that you will be encouraged to love your neighbors better, because Rio isn’t the only place where God is at work. We hope to give a good report about the work that your giving supports.
And, of course, we hope that you’ll consider going to see it for yourself.
We love you all, friends and family! Please keep us in your prayers as we do VBS and go to a homeless shelter tomorrow. Pray that God would open our eyes to see Him and the people of Brazil as we should.