By Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil
The journeys with and by the Short-Term Mission (STM) desk at International Ministries took volunteers, podcast guests and subscribers to all corners of the world through the digital world of zoom.
What have we learned these past twelve to fifteen months?
All the sponsored in-person trips by International Ministries were put on pause March 2020. During a period of discernment, the STM staff started to re-imagine the meaning of connections and bridges. We pondered the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of bridges. How and what do bridges do? They make visible and invisible pathways possible. That pondering made me think of the Children’s book entitled The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst, which reminds us that as long as we have love in our hearts, the invisible string will be present and connect us over lands and oceans.
The STM staff reflected on how to best keep these important connections alive between volunteers, global servants and partners. These decades of formed relationships through Christ could not go into dormancy, could not be abandoned because of a pandemic. What could we learn from history?
Some radical questions kept coming to the surface: How do we keep serving and be true to our call while waiting? How can we do both? How do we recognize growth and new buds of spring in what may appear to be stagnant?
God encouraged us, the Short-Term Mission Staff, to cast our nets of outreach wider than usual. We were undergirded by this scripture verse from Ezekiel 37:5 “..I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” God breathed new possibilities into us with the array of virtual experiences we launched in June 2020 and a new podcast, entitled Bridges For Mission (B4M).
- Virtual experiences lasting 60 to 75 minutes were scheduled on a monthly basis where our global servants and partners connected via zoom. US based volunteers and prospective individuals could have live interactions with global servants ministering in their country of service. The US based participants visited in real time community leaders, prayed over situations, inquired about projects and lived ministry as the internet connections stayed stable. Missional opportunities in the Dominican Republic, Hungary, Thailand, Japan, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Colombia came to life during these 60 to 75 minutes to over 200 people.
- Virtual Discovery Mission Express short-term trips lasting 3 days or 5 days began to form unique cross-cultural bridges between states and countries. Intentional visits and ministry immersions to learn, feel, live and experience ministry for up to 20 hours a week were made possible. Praying and attending worship services with Christ followers in Israel/Palestine while neighborhoods were under attacks, brought a sense of vulnerability. Siblings in Christ shared their pains, and reminded us to be better peacemakers in all circumstances. These virtual Mission Express Discovery trips took teams to other parts of the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Team members discovered Christian life on the mission field with God’s beloved, like the Roma people and displaced refugees.
- A small number of volunteers responded to requests for help from global servants and partners in Spain, Honduras, Asia, Liberia and Hungary. Some of them served hard to reach communities and were stretched physically, as they negotiated time zones to teach, pastor, mentor via zoom. All of the volunteers renewed hope in their own hearts and in hearts who might have been strangers on day 1 but became siblings in Christ during the 14+ weeks they served virtually.
What these past twelve to fifteen months have taught us, is to grasp opportunities, take risks and be willing to deepen walks of faith in the waiting. God shattered the concept of “thinking outside the box” because the confining and restrictive box is no longer present. The use of technology catapulted all of us involved in being part of Kingdom building through the short-term mission movement, to a heightened dimension of living the Great Commission.
We used a current electronic platform to meet God where God was already at work and waiting. The virtual journeys, experienced by all those who participated with the staff at the Short-Term Mission at International Ministries, broke silences and let hearts be immersed in hope and love. The virtual journeys will continue to be offered until we can safely organize and plan in-person short-term mission trips. These global virtual journeys have been a building block of human connections and relationship development.
The scripture from Ezekiel 37:5 “..I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life” met the scripture verse in Romans 12:10 “..Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Ministry was sustained and affirmed.