Making the Most of Your Short-term Mission Trip

Over the past several years, much has been said about short-term mission trips and if they are effective. You can find countless blogs about the merits of such trips and even books have been written on the topic. One of those books is When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. I highly recommend this book especially for someone currently preparing for a short-term mission trip. Actually, it is required reading for anyone traveling on one of New Hope Initiative’s overseas trips. On every team’s first day in country, I facilitate a training based on the principles of the book. The point is to help individuals from Western, wealthier nations understand the complexities of poverty and issues of developing nations and help them develop a sense of open-mindedness and thoughtfulness about what they will see and experience in a country that is very different from their own. I find it helpful material for anyone really committed to learning and experiencing all that developing nations have to offer.

For the past several weeks, we have been preparing to host almost 100 visitors from the United States in Kenya and Tanzania. It’s going to be a crazy summer, but one that I believe will be fun and fruitful. In addition to the principles of When Helping Hurts, I’d like to give a few guiding points to anyone traveling with us (NHI) or on an overseas mission trip in general. Your participation can be so encouraging, helpful and effective, but it can also be discouraging, detrimental and hurtful. By keeping a few things in mind, your short-term trip can be successful.

First, an attitude of patience, humility and flexibility will make your trip more enjoyable (for you and your host). Places like East Africa are not like America. Don’t expect things to be the same. Just because it is not like America does not mean it is bad. There are many, many things about East Africa that I find much better than America. The pace of life, the sense of community and hospitality and the weather are just a few things that come to mind. I could go on and on. Just know that there are good and bad things about other countries and, likewise, there are good and bad things about America. Coming into situations with patience, humility and flexibility will help you adapt to the new culture and find the good things to experience while you are there.

Secondly, a sense of humor is helpful. NHI Founder, Karen Baird, and I often laugh at the situations that we get ourselves into in Nairobi. For the most part, these situations are not the most desirable and should make us want to cry. But, instead, we laugh. Living and working in a developing nation requires a sense of humor. If you cannot laugh at the camel crossing six lanes of traffic or being repeatedly lied to your face, then you better not try to work in places like Kenya. Of course, it’s not always a laughing matter, but I find tackling difficult situations with humor resolves problems more effectively and keeps you sane.

Next, throw all your expectations out the window! Go with a posture of listening, learning, and serving. If you expect to be entertained, you will be disappointed. Of course, your host wants you to have a good time and experience all you can. Hosting visitors in developing countries is hard. Visitors are very dependent on the host. It is draining and as a host you always want to please your guest. For me, the best guests have been the ones that did not have their own agenda, but allowed me to show them Kenya from my perspective. One good friend of mine visited every slum in Nairobi with me, because I had work to do in each of them, and she came along for the ride. It was such a blessing to me. Another friend counted and sorted beads for our business project. It was a tedious, boring job, but it needed to get done and she was willing to do anything to serve. Go with the intention of serving your host. Believe me, they have been thinking about you and serving you for several weeks, so you will be blessed. I promise.

Lastly, learn about the countries you are visiting and the ministries before you leave the States. Do your homework. It will enhance your experience and give you a sense of how you can connect with the people and projects in the long-term. For me, success of short-term trips for NHI is helping the individual learn and grow and find ways to connect with our people and projects long-term. Short-term trips have had a profound impact on my walk with Christ and my personal development. I have always prayed for the Lord to show me how to connect long-term. If it is only about the 10-14 days you are in country, then it’s a waste. Pray about how God would want to shape you and use you through the experience.

In summary…

  • Have an attitude of patience, humility and flexibility.
  • Approach the trip with a sense of humor.
  • Manage your expectations about what you will accomplish.
  • Do your homework on the country and ministry you are visiting.

With these things in mind, I believe your short-term mission trip can be a huge success and effective for both you and your host! Looking forward to having you. Safe journey to East Africa!


Friday afternoon volleyball at our academy in Kibera. So fun!

Camel crossing the road in Nairobi. What?

Camel crossing the road in Nairobi. What?

“shouldn’t be such a big deal”

“I mean, everybody should have access to medical care. And, you know, it shouldn’t be such a big deal.” Paul Farmer

A few years ago, I read Paul Farmer’s biography “Mountains Beyond Mountains” by Tracy Kidder. Since learning about Farmer and reading his biography, I have been inspired by his commitment to community health in some of the poorest areas in the world. He has worked to provide suitable health care to rural and under-resourced areas in developing countries, beginning in Haiti. He and the organization he founded, Partners in Health, have transformed the way healthcare is administered around the world and provided the model for changing community health in under-resourced areas.

Of course, we don’t have Paul Farmer working in our health clinic, but I have thought a lot about him and his work as we have set up our clinic in Kibera. Paul Farmer’s life has been about providing healthcare to those who do not have access to it. He believes that healthcare is a fundamental human right. I believe that is what we are providing with our clinic in Kibera. Healthcare is expensive. In places in the world where the government does not provide healthcare, individuals are on the own and many times cannot afford the care they need. With the start of our clinic, we are providing free healthcare for basic needs to the students in our Academy and Penda Project as well as the women in Project Biashara. It’s a small start, but I believe there is much potential due to the healthcare needs of the people I see.

New Hope Initiative has the vision of operating a full service community clinic in our project in Kibera in the future. And, we have made the first step toward that vision. I am happy to announce that we have completed the first stage of that clinic. The building is complete, stocked and open to receive students and women two days a week. We have a local, Kenyan nurse caring for their immediate needs and doing assessments for long-term care. In addition, we are gathering data about the healthcare needs of the individuals in our projects, so we can work to do trainings on individual health care measures and prevent disease.

Please pray for a couple of issues regarding our clinic:

  • The installation of sinks and running water – as you can imagine, this is tricky in a slum, but also mandatory for registration with the government.
  • For the registration process; that we would have favor with the local health official and be easily approved.
  • For Nurse Olive as she assesses and cares for the individuals in our projects.
  • For the future of the clinic and that we would one day be a fully functioning clinic that can meet the healthcare needs of the community.
Nurse Olive

Nurse Olive

Our medical intern, Robert, putting bandages on Stephen for the 10th day in a row!

Our medical intern, Robert, putting bandages on Stephen for the 10th day in a row!

Clinic Waiting Area and Pharmacy

Clinic Waiting Area and Pharmacy

Examination Room One

Examination Room

Examination Room and Hand Washing Station

Examination Room and Hand Washing Station



Examination Room One

Examination Room

My Favorite Future Tanzanian Pastor, Part 2



In Part 2 of my interview with Abraham Stanslaus, he shares with us his hopes for the future and some excited news about his family!

Q: What are your hopes and dreams for your future?

I felt a calling even as a child but didn’t know the right way to go. Even growing up in the Catholic Church I was faithful, but I had an empty heart. When I came to know the truth about Christ, I knew this was the right way. I liked the word of God and enjoyed it. I knew that I was called to preach the Word of God. I have desired to be a Pastor since I was a child. I want to see other people’s lives changed by the gospel. Life change acts like a catalyst to me and motivates me. I want to be a Pastor and teacher of God’s word.

Q: You are seen as a leader among your peers here at Bible Baptist. What is your vision for the school and church?

As far as big picture vision, I see the lives of others changing. I also see another generation of our church going out to other areas of Tanzania for the sake of the gospel. This foundation we are building here at Bible Baptist will support men and women of God taking the gospel out from here and around the nation and world. We desire to send out more and more for the gospel. That takes spiritual development and growth here at home. People are dying without Christ, they need Christ, they have lost hope, but we (us and the children we raise) are going to change the lives of our relatives and neighbors and be a generation that pleases God. That motivates me, because I see a hope in them.

Q: Tell me about your family.

I have been married to Josephine for 2 years. And, we are expecting our first child!

Q: Is there anything else you would like to tell my readers?

If you are not changing the lives of others, you are wasting your time. People have to know that after this life there is another life. This life is not our home; we are citizens of heaven. Everyone should know that and live their lives with purpose. You don’t have to waste time.

My Favorite Future Tanzanian Pastor, Part 1


Abraham Stanslaus

In the past two weeks, I have had the opportunity to visit New Hope’s ministry partner in Arusha, Tanzania on two different trips. On the first trip, I led a leadership development training for the staff of the primary school. The teachers were excited about learning new leadership skills and encouraging their colleagues through fun activities I had planned. I found them to be bright, motivated and committed. One of those individuals was Abraham Stanslaus. I first met Abraham in 2013 on a visit with some members from my church in DC. I was impressed with him then, but now even more so. Abraham is a teacher at the school but has recently taken on a role at the church. Senior Pastor Vernon Smith has been teaching and developing Abraham for several years now, and we believe he will be a full-time Pastor one day. On my second trip to Arusha, I sat down with Abraham to learn more about his life and his view of leadership. His answers were so insightful that I’ve decided to split his interview into two parts. Enjoy Part 1!

Q: How did you first learn about Bible Baptist and New Hope Initiative?

I am from Arusha and grew up in the Catholic Church here. When I was 16 years old, the American missionaries invited my soccer team to the church (11 years ago). At the time, the church met in a tent and was just beginning. I accepted Christ at Bible Baptist at the age of 17 in 2003. Afterwards, I became a member of Bible Baptist. I enjoyed the Bible Challenge Pastor Smith leads at the beginning of Wednesday night service and wanted to know more about God’s word.

After becoming involved at the church, I started volunteering at the school when the Foltz family started it. I continued to help and discovered that I liked teaching. I realized I needed additional education, so I completed my teaching certificate and attended Bible College. After finishing my education, I returned to the school to help.

My current role includes being the Junior Pastor at the church assisting Pastor Smith. I am on the church “board” (leadership team) and also preach on Sunday mornings occasionally. At the school, I am a part-time teacher.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

I like teaching and I’m proud of the profession. I also like to preach. If I don’t teach, I feel like I’m missing something. I am compelled to teach.

Q: How do you define leadership?

Leadership is a privilege. It is not something you can go to school and get. It’s something that God gives people, a calling. Leadership is a gift that you have to use properly. We must steward the gift well. If someone is in leadership, they are to be servants – not to command and be bosses but to serve, walking by the Spirit, led by love. Leaders must understand that.

Q: What do you like most about working at Bible Baptist?

It is a conducive, peaceful environment that I am very proud of. It is a village of joy and fountain of peace. I am comfortable here. Of course, it’s not perfect, and we have normal issues, but we are blessed much. We have good security, teachers, and leadership. We are glad to be here, proud of what we are doing – serving the children and community.

Check back next week for Part 2 of this interview. Abraham tells us about his vision for the future and some exciting news for his family!

After Wedensday night service last week with Abraham and visiting Pastors John and Dan from Restoration City Church DC

After Wednesday night service last week with Abraham and visiting Pastors John and Dan from Restoration City Church DC