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Archive for Mission Trips

Our associate found a great fund raising idea for our student ministry’s summer mission trip. It’s simple and effective! It’s called the “Wall o’ Money.” Here’s what he did. He took simple white envelopes and had the students decorate them, numbering them from $1 to $100. The envelopes were then displayed on one of the walls of our lobby outside the sanctuary. People were invited to take an envelope corresponding to the amount they would like to donate, insert the cash or check, and turn it in. It’s a simple idea, but here’s the genius behind it: if every envelope is taken, those numbers add up to about $5,000!

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Crow Creek

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This weekend several from our church made a quick run to Crow Creek Reservation in Ft. Thompson, South Dakota, to recognize Jason Yates and Dustin Miller for their two years of service with the Harvest Initiative (HarvestInitiative.org). Dustin wasn’t able to be there, but we were able to celebrate with Jason and his wife Betsy. While we were there, Scott Oswald, who made his 21st trip to Crow Creek, was also presented a Star Quilt. A Star Quilt is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a person. Congratulations Jason and Betsy Yates, Dustin and Sarah Miller, and Scott Oswald!

Last week I spent two days onsite at Crow Creek Reservation in Ft. Thompson, South Dakota, with four members of our congregation. It was about the 12th time I’ve been there in the last three years. Our congregation has worked very hard to make a difference in this community, named the poorest county in America in the 2000 U.S. Census.

One of the great things about the 21st century is that missions and mission opportunities have been moved to the bottom shelf within reach of everyone. When I was a kid, mission work was outsourced to professionals who were trained and sent to do the work. Missionaries were the special forces of the Kingdom of God, conducting guerrilla warfare in Jesus’ name both home and abroad. Meanwhile back at the local church we were asked to pray, give, and watch slide show presentations from the professionals who had furloughed home for a brief time of “R and R” before heading back to the front lines.

But today, anyone can go on a mission trip. And anyone can plan and lead a mission trip. This is very cool! However, there are some things that I’d like to pass along as words of advice to those of you who may be headed out with a church group this summer.

1. Make the trip about them, not about you.
One of the things we heard repeatedly from our friends in South Dakota was that church groups conveyed the feeling that they had come to the reservation to do a week’s worth of work so they could return home and feel good about themselves, as though to appease their own conscience. If you want to make an impact, it has to be about the people you serve. It can never be about you or your group.

2. Do what they need, not what you think they need.
Sometimes mission trips are birthed out of a desire to use one’s gifts or talents for the good of others. This is not necessarily bad, but if your gifts and talents are not what is needed at a particular venue, you may want to either change venues or adjust your approach. I highly recommend pre-trip visits to see the community and to inquire about what they actually need to have done. Listen carefully, then follow through.

3. Spare no expense.
One of our early trips to Crow Creek revealed the need for school clothes. However, the locals were a bit skeptical about our enthusiasm to bring clothes. The reason? All kinds of churches had trucked up clothes that were old, worn, soiled, and damaged. So we heard that comment and returned home and conducted a clothing drive which provided one outfit (shirt and pants), one pair of shoes, undergarments, and a winter coat for every elementary aged child in the school. All brand new. There’s a difference between meeting a need and cleaning out a closet. One serves a community. The other serves self.

4. Finish the job.
At the top of this post is a picture of an Episcopal Church in Ft. Thompson. Years ago a church mission group came to the reservation and decided to paint the church. When time ran out at the end of the week, the group loaded up and left. They had painted the entire church with the exception of the steeple. The blue steeple of this simple house of faith stands as a symbolic reminder to us each time we visit of the importance of finishing the job.

5. Make sure to return.
The power of mission work is not in the work. It’s in the relationships that are forged through returning time and time again. Our church has chosen to focus on developing lasting and meaningful relationships. One person in our church has been 20 times in the past three years. To him, the people of Crow Creek are friends. Granted, choosing to focus your trips to one venue may not enable your church to see several parts of the country. But you will make a greater impact on the lives of people because you’ve cared enough to actually get to know them.

I hope that you’ll discover the value of doing “hands on” missions. If you’ll follow these simple words of advice, you will touch a life. Then you can feel good.

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