Once upon a time, there was a church who wanted to send a group of teens on a summer mission trip. The church prayerfully selected each team member and began preparing the team for ministry. They had a heart for working with children and several people on the team had a passion for soccer. And so, they began looking for opportunities to send their team to a place where they could use sports to proclaim the Gospel.
Imagine that meanwhile elsewhere, another church was also looking ahead to its summer ministries. God had been stirring their hearts with a growing desire to reach the community around the church. As they got to know their neighbors, they learned that there was a need for sports programs for children. The church had beautiful sports facilities but needed a group to help them run a sports program. The leaders decided that if they hosted a team of people with sports passion and skills, they would be even more effective in reaching their community. But what would it take for them to host a team? They would need to consider food, lodging, sports equipment costs, etc.
Now you can stop imagining because the two teams are merely an illustration to help shape our thinking about Maranatha’s summer mission trip. What is our role as a church sending a mission team? What is our role as a church hosting a mission team? How does this shape our thinking about short-term mission trips as a whole?
Mission trips provide a unique opportunity for participants to take a week away from their normal routine and comforts and to be a part of a team with a single-minded purpose: sharing the Gospel with the lost. On mission trips obstacles arise, plans are changed, and we often see God work in unexpected ways. The limitations of a foreign language and complex cultural differences often leave us feeling powerless. We are forced out of our comfort zone, and in our state of weakness, God works in unimaginable ways. Within the context of mission trips people see their faith come alive, many for the first time. Mission trips remind us how small we are and how big God is.
So why is it that a mission trip to our own city, working within the context of our own church, has the potential to sound “boring?” The scenery, culture, and language are all familiar and even predictable. Perhaps it’s that familiarity often carries with it a sense of control and self-sufficiency. We can easily feel as though things are under our control. We aren't desperate for God to do something incredible, perhaps because we feel that we have the capacity to do something incredible for God. So how can we step out in faith in the context of the familiar? What steps can we take to go beyond our comforts and capacity and in faith, ask God to do something incredible?
This July, fourteen of our teens will be leading our church family as we step out into the unknown. We’ve heard from our community that there’s great interest in soccer, and so we’ll be hosting a week-long soccer camp. For many of us, this is something we feel inadequate to do. How will the community respond? Will we have 3 children or 300? Maranatha family, we invite you to join with the mission team as we step out in faith and look to God to work. May we exult in our weaknesses, that God might magnify His power in us (2 Cor. 9).
So as a host church, how can Maranatha help with the physical needs for this trip? We will need volunteers to come alongside our mission team with staffing the sports camp. We are looking for people who have a background in soccer and can be “coaches” and help run drills. If you don’t have a sports background, don’t worry there will be opportunities to help with snacks, teaching, and various other ways. We will need volunteers who can help with the morning camp and/or the evening camp. We will also need help providing dinners for the mission team Sunday - Friday evenings at the church. In the coming weeks, we will be sharing more info with small groups about how they can help with this need.
As a sending church, each year our mission team relies on the generosity of God’s people to cover the costs of our teens going on this trip. The mission team will be sending out letters in the coming weeks explaining the needs and how you can partner financially.
But more than all that, our greatest need is your spiritual partnership. Would you pray for each of the members of the mission team?
Pray that over the next 10 weeks of training and preparation, God will create a spirit of unity on the team. Pray for wisdom in our planning and preparation for the camp. Above all, ask that we would lean on God and not our own strength. Ask that God would begin working in the hearts of people in our community and that He would draw families to put their faith in Christ through this ministry.
This year’s local mission trip creates a unique opportunity for sacrifice and blessings for our church body. Instead of sending a team to a faraway land, we’re sending them to our own community. Instead of waiting weeks to see pictures and hear stories about how
God worked, our church family is invited to join in real-time and be an active part of what God is doing. Our prayer is that we will be able to build long-term relationships in the community that will extend well beyond the final day of soccer camp. Though the mission trip will end, may our thinking be forever changed, and may God help us to step out in faith, especially when we are in our familiar and comfortable context.