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!

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

Camel crossing the road in Nairobi. What?

Camel crossing the road in Nairobi. What?

My Favorite Future Tanzanian Pastor, Part 2

Abraham

Abraham

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

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

Training Leaders in Tanzania

This week, I have had the privilege to spend time with our ministry partners in Arusha, Tanzania. What an amazing work happening here! The ministry here is a wonderful example of how to do community development based out of the local church. After planting the church over 10 years ago, Vernon and Mary Smith along with their local leaders and ministry team, have started a primary school and community clinic. The school and clinic serve the immediate community around them, but people also come from all over Arusha to attend the school and receive medical care from the clinic. It has been a real privilege to work with the leaders here and be a small part of their ministry.

I’ve been facilitating a leadership development workshop with the teachers of the school. Most of the training has been on personal leadership skills and working as a team. The teachers here are dedicated and care deeply about their students. They are bright and are learning to work together to accomplish the mission of the school, which is to educate the next generation of leaders in Tanzania.

Leading a leadership training for the school staff.

Leading a training for the school staff.

No trip to Arusha is complete without a stop at Khan's - auto parts store by day, chicken on the bonnet by night. Here we are with Mr. Khan.

No trip to Arusha is complete without a stop at Khan’s BBQ – auto parts store by day, chicken on the bonnet by night. Here we are with Mr. Khan.

Top of the World

I made it to the top with Jordyn and Robert. Could not have asked for better hiking buddies!

Made it to the top with these two amazing people, Jordyn and Robert. Could not have asked for better hiking buddies!

It’s hard to even begin describing last week. Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro for 7 days was beyond my wildest imaginations. First of all, the idea of living on a mountain for a week had me apprehensive to say the least. I knew we would sleep on the ground in tents and go without a shower. That in and of itself was scary for me. I love my sleep and showers. But, on top of that, we would be climbing to 19,341 feet and hiking over 40 miles.
It was absolutely amazing. Something about living in a tent and minimizing your needs for a week is freeing and calming. I felt more myself. No cell phones, no internet, no distractions. Just me, the mountain and two amazing friends that had me laughing the entire week. Just thinking about the week brings a huge smile to my face, because so many jokes and memories come rushing to my mind that make me laugh.
The sight at the top brought pure joy. We made it. Our guide had timed our ascent to the summit perfectly, so we arrived just as the sun was rising. My body held up and handled the altitude – well, maybe with the help of some meds – but all I felt was pure joy. A sense that we made it and it was a glorious sight.
I think that’s all I can say at this point – except I must give huge props to our tour company. If you think you may be interested, Zara Tours is the way to go. They are owned by a Tanzanian woman, have been in business for over 27 years and have very experienced guides from the local community. They were professional, fun, and supportive the entire journey.
Here are a few of my favorite photos, but I’m sure I’ll share more in the weeks to come.
View of the top from our hotel in Moshi.

View of Kili from our hotel in Moshi.

Day 2

Day 2

One of our camps on the mountain. We woke up to the most gorgeous views!

One of our camps on the mountain. We woke up to the most gorgeous views!

Getting closer.

Getting closer.

The crew. Two sisters from Sweden were part of our group. They made it to the top as well. Our tour company was very proud!

The crew. Two sisters from Sweden were part of our group. We had a great time with them! They made it to the top as well, so our tour company was very proud!

Clouds and Mt Meru in the distance.

Clouds and Mt Meru in the distance.

Who needs a dining tent when the sun is this bright and warm!?!

Who needs a dining tent when the sun is this bright and warm!?!

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This was one of our favorite spots on the route.

I think we could do an ad for the "Buff".

I think we could do an ad for the “Buff”.

Just past Stella Point, we left to our left and saw the orange tint of the sun coming up...

Just past Stella Point, we looked to our left and saw the orange tint of the sun coming up…

Most amazing sunrise.

Most amazing sunrise from the summit.

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Pure joy.

Glacier at the top. Absolutely beautiful.

Glacier at the top. Absolutely beautiful.

In all honesty, the trip would not have happened if it weren't for this gal. Jordyn organized us and made it happen. I love this sweet friend and this experience has bonded us for life!

In all honesty, the trip would not have happened if it weren’t for this gal. Jordyn organized us and made it happen. I love this sweet friend. This experience has bonded us for life!

Hmmmm...Yes, it took this many people to get 5 of us to the top!

Hmmmm…Yes, it took this many people to get 5 of us to the top!

Our guides, Mndeme and Salim, were with us every step of the way. They are the best!

Our guides, Mndeme and Salim, were with us every step of the way. They are the best!

Looking back on our accomplishment.

Looking back on our accomplishment.

Look at the View

“Beauty awakens the soul to act.” Dante
As I sat down to write this week’s blog, I didn’t really have much to say. Of course, there are plenty of things going on in my life and limitless stories to tell about the work I do. But, nothing too exciting happened this week, and I was not feeling so creative. I decided to share some of the beauty of Africa that I have experienced.
This past Saturday, I went to one of my favorite places in Nairobi to call one of my best friends – there is good wi-fi there and the view is unbelievable. I found this spot when my parents visited last summer. Hemingways overlooks the Ngong Hills. It is beautiful, and one of the best places to watch the sun set in Nairobi. After the life-giving conversation with my dear friend and a sunset that did not disappoint, I felt my soul was renewed and ready for the week ahead.
Here are some of the views I’ve enjoyed since living and traveling in Africa. I hope the beauty inspires your soul as much as it does mine.
Hemingways Nairobi, overlooking the Ngong Hills.

Hemingways Nairobi, overlooking the Ngong Hills.

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Sunset at Lewa Conservancy

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Sunrise in Massai Mara

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Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side

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Indian Ocean from the coast of Zanzibar

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Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda

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Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda

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Land of a Thousand Hills, Rwanda

Kibera Slum, Nairobi, Kenya

Kibera Slum, Nairobi, Kenya

Tea Farm in Limuru, Kenya

Tea Farm in Limuru, Kenya