Not all short-term teams are alike. Sometimes we cry when a team leaves out of sheer relief that they are finally gone. Other times we cry because our new found friends are leaving us. Some teams leave a mess behind that we have to clean up, while others leave a wake of blessings that propels the ministry forward long after they are gone. So, what’s the difference between the two? I believe there are four things every short-term team can do to to leave behind a long-term blessing. 

Teams that thrive in these four areas leave us in tears at the airport—tears of gratitude as we say goodbye to a group that started off as visitors and quickly became friends.

  1. Love Jesus

Above all else, love Jesus! Abide in Him! Jesus clearly told us we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in him (John 15:4). So, if you are not abiding in Jesus on your campus, what makes you think you going to the missions field will change anything? We need students to come who are full of the Holy Spirit. We need students who are ready to join us in fighting for souls for the Kingdom of God. The worst thing you can do is come here spiritually empty. So, take days to fast and pray before you leave. Be in the Word of God. Develop habits that will carry over to when you come overseas.

Remember, you are entering a spiritual battle, and you will need your armor on if you are not only going to survive this battle, but come out of it healthy and victorious. The only way that will happen is if you prioritize time with Jesus both before and during the trip. 

2. Love our people

If you love our people well, we will love you. Simple as that. 

Don’t complain about the culture or people we work amongst. Do we love everything about the place? Probably not. Are there things about the culture that annoy us? You bet. Sin and Satan have had their way in many parts of the world. We didn’t move here because it’s easy, we came here because Jesus is worthy of the praise of this people and He is their only hope of transformation. In honesty, there are many aspects of the culture that we don’t like. Yet, we endeavor not to look at them through eyes of the flesh, but eyes of the Spirit. As we come and embed ourselves in the community, seeking Jesus’ vision for the local people, we find ourselves falling in love with them. Yeah, they’ve got their problems (like anyone else), and they might be spiritually dead and stinky, but they are our stinky people, and we love them! 

One of the worst things you can do is complain about the people we love and believe in. When you complain, you undermine our love for them and sow seeds of doubt. In some ways, they become like family, and you better not talk bad about our family! 

So, please, go out of your way to extravagantly bless and love on the local people. In my context, most of the people we work with have had little interaction with Christianity. When we show them the genuine love of Christ, barriers come down and doors open to share the Gospel.

Here are three easy ways to love the local people: 

Be a guest.  Remember this is not your culture. You are a guest in someone else’s country. Act like you would if you were a guest in someone else’s home. No one likes a disrespectful house guest. Let’s be good guests in the places we visit. 

Be a student. Ask great questions. Don’t come in as if you know everything because, believe me, you don’t! One young man who recently visited us sat down with a local friend of ours and very respectfully asked questions about his life, culture, and the religion. The local friend ended up opening up to him, which led to a conversation about the Gospel. This friend is now a part of a seeker Bible study. 

Be a servant. Look for ways to serve and not be served. A servant mentality is foreign to the way of the world. It causes people to stop and notice. If you genuinely serve the local people, it will leave a lasting impact on them and bless the team that remains on the ground.  

3. Love each other

Be aware: One of the devil’s greatest strategies is to divide. If we are divided, we usually lose focus on the mission because we are too busy looking at one another’s issues. 

You will be spending a lot of time with your teammates. They are going to do things that annoy you. Heck, the hosts are probably going to do things that annoy you. We are going to make mistakes. We aren’t going to host you perfectly. Throw culture shock on top of that and it’s going to be really difficult to keep a cool head. Offenses will come, you should prepare for that in advance. Decide now that you are going to be quick to forgive. Forgive each other. Forgive us. Forgive yourself. And, if you need to confront someone, do it with grace and love. Don’t let your issues spill over to the rest of the team. It’s like a cancer that will destroy the morale of your team and the missionaries on the ground.  

There is nothing worse than hosting a short-term team that fights with each other. It’s a drain on the missionaries and the team and a distraction from the mission. So, please, intentionally work at loving each other well. 

4. Love us.

Missions is tough. We get worn down. The devil constantly seeks to kill, steal, and destroy our ministry. The spiritual warfare takes its toll on us. Sometimes we need a pat on the back and a word of encouragement. It’s like we are running a marathon, and sometimes we need people to come and hand us a cup of cold water and cheer us on to keep going. 

As a short-term team, you will come and leave, and we will remain behind. Keep that in mind. You are limited in what you can do in the amount of time you are with us, but you can multiply your impact by loving us well. Look for practical ways to serve the long-term missionaries. Hang out with us. Take  time to pray with us. Love our kids. 

One way to love us is to connect to our big win—to embrace the mission we are a part of. Don’t make the trip about your own personal victories or fulfillment. Come under our vision and work to advance that, no matter how small your role may be. One CMIT who visited did a great job of connecting every guy he had a significant conversation with back to me. He knew that he would be leaving soon and he did not have enough time to pour into these guys, but he also knew I would remain behind and could form deeper relationships with them. This CMIT bought into the vision, accepted his role, and helped me to connect with guys I normally would not have been able to meet. 

Explore practical ways to bless your hosts and their team. Ask ahead of time if you can bring anything (chocolate chips, salad dressing, Chick-fil-a sauce, etc.). Family members stateside may send you packages to take with you. Some missionaries may like to order things like computers or books and you bring them in. Be open to help however you can in this way. Ask if they have kids and what they like.

As hosts, we want to love and serve you well. We are grateful you are sacrificing time and money to be with us. We believe in short-term teams. We believe God can use you, and we have seen it happen many times. It is a joy to host a team that loves Jesus, loves our people, loves each other, and loves us well. Teams that thrive in these four areas leave us in tears at the airport—tears of gratitude as we say goodbye to a group that started off as visitors and quickly became friends. These kind of teams may come for a short amount of time, but leave behind a long-term blessing.