Short term missions long term results
Limited trips to mission field give expanded view of God, clearer idea of hardships.
by Ted Horwood, Captain –
In 1986, I was a Salvationist who had completed college, but had no clear direction. Having moved to a Salvation Army camp, I began to be inadvertently discipled by two guys whose spiritual walk was on a plain I had never been exposed to before. Consequently, I was challenged to explore the traditions, values and lifestyle in which I had been steeped. It quickly became uncomfortably clear that I was being drawn in the direction of missions.
I went to DHQ to ask if the Army had any opportunities for people like me. After what seemed to be ages of looking, the general secretary pulled out a faded application that looked strangely like a piece of papyrus. He looked me in the eyes, and said, “If you want to be a missionary in The Salvation Army, your best bet is to become an officer.” Naturally I laughed out the door and all the way home.
That was almost twenty years ago. And for nearly fifteen of those years, I served as an officer with my family in the mission field. It is, therefore, supremely rewarding to know that the Army has changed. It no longer expects “missions” to mean “officers only.” The Western Territory is encouraging, training and mobilizing lay missionaries and teams for missions experiences like never before—which is a good thing, because according to a variety of Christian leaders, if church organizations don’t mobilize short-term missionaries, organizational effectiveness in the mission field and their strength at home is significantly reduced.
The genesis of short-term missions work began about four decades ago. Operation Mobilization and Youth With A Mission began deploying short-term missions workers with tremendous success. Estimates of the explosion of U.S. lay people involved in projects increased from 22,000 in 1979 to 450,000 in 1998. Whether people are being deployed for two weeks or two years, many experts agree with Paul Borthwick, “A short-term trip will expand your view of God, cause you to see what you own differently, give you a clear idea of hardship, give you a fresh look at heaven, stretch your faith and force you to grow up.”
The Western Territory’s missions program continues to be strengthened and utilized by more and more soldiers around the territory. This year, three people are experiencing different perspectives of their missions deployment: Jennifer Stickland, a soldier of the Tustin Ranch Corps, recently returned from one year in Malawi, Africa. She says, “Africa provides an environment free from worldly distractions; it was such a luxury to embrace the peace and quiet. There were times when I struggled with what to do, but I learned that just my availability, my willingness to be there was what God required.”
Elizabeth Brown made herself available about a year ago. She is currently serving in Latvia as a regional youth work coordinator. She writes, “This opportunity I have been given to serve as a lay missionary has changed my life. I have been stretched more that I ever thought I would be and loved more than I ever thought I could. I have experienced God through my work here and I now hold in my heart a burning desire to tell people about my Father’s love.”
Alex Yee, a soldier of the Asian American Corps in Yerba Buena and a recent graduate from UCLA, has just accepted a position in Malaysia. His experience speaks to the process of waiting on the Lord’s direction and release. Alex left September 17 to work in the Penang Children’s Home. He writes, “I think the hardest part has been the waiting and not knowing what to expect. But I guess that has been the most beneficial; it teaches you to be patient and trust in the Lord, and to just be faithful as he turns the otherwise immovable gears in the big machines of the world.”
In the testimony of each individual, the theme is constant––God works his character in us when we allow him to draw us beyond areas of comfort and predictability. The opportunity for mission has never been better in this territory, and the need has never been greater. If you are interested in serving overseas for one to three years, contact your divisional headquarters or the territorial headquarters’ Missions department (562-491-8473).