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Why Your Church Should Go On Short Term Mission Trips

I want to make a case for short term mission trips as part of an overall missions strategy. This comes out of 10 years experience on staff at a medium sized church where we developed an intentional short term mission strategy for the specific purposes I’ll share below.

There have been plenty of blogs, articles and speakers who have derided the “short term mission trip” over the past few years. Some have given good reasons, some have not. Certainly, every church leader and every mission team along with the missionary on the field must examine the situation and context to determine the value and benefit of a short term mission trip on both those who go and those who receive the team.

Many churches have given little thought to their mission strategy. They give small amounts of money to any number of people who they don’t know or have little real relationship. They send teams to places that sound cool, where there is a perceived need or someone knows someone rather than really thinking through what they hope to accomplish.

First, let me share with you a few non negotiables that I believe should be present when choosing a partner for your short term mission trip.

– Look for a place where your team will get to share the Gospel. Building, digging, painting, cleaning all have their time and place, but if you want to produce the fruit I mentioned above, you must plant the right kind of seeds. Look for a place where you can talk about your faith with people who have never heard the Gospel before.
– Work with someone who can help you learn how to cross cultures. A short term mission trip should give your team an opportunity to The Bible says we are to be in the world, but not of it. Going on a mission trip gives you a chance to reset and then re-enter your home culture with a new perspective. We will help you with this process.
– Work with someone who knows how to talk about Jesus, the Bible and spiritual concepts in an easy, engaging and culturally relevant way.

You need to ask and answer this question among others:

What type of fruit are you trying to produce?

Hopefully, this brief article will help you, your pastoral team and your missions committee think clearly and Biblically about a mission strategy that your whole church can embrace and support which will result in a God exalting mission strategy with real fruit rather than a shotgun or haphazard approach to missions that is interest or people driven rather than founded in the real bedrock of God’s plan for reaching the nations.

If you need further help, please contact me at todd.blackhurst@missiontaiwan.org

Once you select a missionary to work with, a place where the Gospel needs to be advanced and where you can partner to make a difference – and I’m making an assumption that work is Gospel-centered (sharing the Gospel at its core and essence), then I believe you will begin to produce this kind of fruit.

– Gospel fruit – If you go, your prayer and hope should be that God will call people to Christ in saving faith. Every mission trip hopefully will ultimately result in people coming to faith. So a mission trip ought to have some type of preparing the soil, planting the seed, watering the seed or reaping a harvest component. Hopefully all of the above. However, in some places or circumstances, it might just be one or two.
– Evangelistic fruit – Mission trips ought to ignite the evangelistic zeal of every person who goes. The team should prepare beforehand and the missionary should train and enable the attendees to share their faith in the local context and give them tools to take it back home so that zeal is uncontainable when they return back to their own place of ministry.
– Ministry fruit – A long term mission strategy will ultimately result in people living sacrificially for the Gospel, and/or giving their lives up to serve Christ either at home or abroad.
– Sacrificial fruit – As people give and see the three types of fruit above produced more and more, they and others should and will be encouraged and inspired to sacrifice their personal resources, especially financially so that the Gospel is taken to the ends of the earth.

In addition, engaging in an intentional mission trip can and will energize your home church. A great mission partner will teach you how to share your stories so that people back home can share in the excitement and rejoice with you.

Hello Jet Lag My Old Friend

I’m back at home in Taichung after a short delay because of Typhoon Megi. Our family is safe, thanks for checking in on us and praying for our safety. Do you recognize the picture from above? It’s from one of the cities I visited.

This trip to the states was incredibly productive and I was able to meet with friends, family and churches from New York to Washington State. I’ll be in contact with these new relationships regularly as we work together to bring even more people here in Taiwan to know and love Jesus Christ.

However, I’ll be leaving again next Friday to visit our friends in Texas and Oklahoma. Be sure to check the schedule below and make sure that you find a way to meet up with me if at all possible. I would love to see you since our opportunities to do so are so few and far between.

Today is Andrew’s 12th birthday – we celebrated by taking him out to lunch for his favorite Chinese food and tea. He’s growing into quite the young man.

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October Trip / Texas & Oklahoma

Friday, Oct 7 – Arrive Amarillo
Saturday, Oct 8 – Amarillo, TX
Sunday, Oct 9 – TBC Amarillo, AM Sunday School Hour
Monday, Oct 10 – Amarillo TX / Fly to Austin, PM
Tuesday, Oct 11 – Belton, TX
Wednesday, Oct 12 – Waco, TX
Thursday, Oct 13 – Dallas, Rockwall, TX
Friday, Oct 14 – Shawnee, OK
Saturday, Oct 15 (Travel Day)
Sunday, Oct 16 – Clovis, NM Central Baptist AM Services
Monday, Oct 17 – Amarillo, TX
Tuesday, Oct 18 – Amarillo, TX
Wednesday, Oct 19 – Weatherford, Oklahoma City, OK
Thursday, Oct 20 – Shawnee, Muskogee, OK
Friday, Oct 21 – Rockwall, TX
Saturday, Oct 22 – Travel Day
Sunday, Oct 23 – Round Rock, TX Central Baptist AM
Monday, Oct 24 – Belton, TX UMHB
Tuesday, Oct 25 – Belton, TX UMHB
Wednesday Oct 26 – Temple, TX FBC Temple

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One of my stopovers was in Montgomery, AL, where I was able to stay with Wayne and Jann Lennon. This is where Crista’s dad moved shortly after we arrived in Taiwan. It was so great to get to meet Jann’s family for the first time and enjoy some great southern hospitality. I also met some friends from Taiwan at FBC Montgomery whose parents pastor a church in our southern city of Kaohsiung.

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I was able to meet up with Grant & Tasha Price (old friends and supporters from Amarillo) at their new home in Woodstock, GA for some relaxing time to catch up and even an outdoor adventure kayaking on their local lake.

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Tim House and I were best buddies when I lived in Coeur d’Alene, ID.(7th – 10th grade) I was able to spend the day with Tim and his wife Amy while visiting Spokane, WA. We figured out that Amy (Harless) House and her family were on the mission field with a family that now serves alongside of us here in Taichung at Taichung International Fellowship and at our children’s school. Oh how sweet is the Providence of God!

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In Portland, OR, I was able to catch up with these old friends.
Esther (Waters) Sou and Elijah, bookends of the group are living in Portland serving at a Conservative Baptist Church. Nathan Fike (center), just moved to Portland from Amarillo, TX to join them and Cobe, from Taiwan just moved there to enroll in a graduate program. Cobe came to one of our English camps several years ago and has been hearing the Gospel. Pray that He will come to know Christ in Portland and that God will use these three as part of that process.

 

Richard & Christine

This is a summary of my e-mail newsletter posts about our interaction with Richard & Christine (the couple in the center of the picture) since we first met them in August of 2014.

August 2014 – For the last few weeks, a young family (pictured above in the center – Richard & Christine) have been attending the Saturday evening Bible study where Crista and I teach. They started coming so their two little girls could begin hearing and learning English. Richard speaks English quite well and Christine speaks a little and listens well.

When they started coming, they also started reading the Bible. Each week, they come ready with a list of questions from their Bible reading. Tonight, Christine was asking questions from the book of Numbers. (it is very typical for Eastern people to start at the beginning and work systematically through the Scriptures). After a little while, along with the help of my friends at the church, in both English and Mandarin, we reached the point where I told her how great our God was, overruling the universe, more powerful, more wonderful, greater than we could understand, but at the same time He loved her and her family. She and Richard both looked at me and together asked – “How can we know this?”. I held my arms open wide and said, “You can know this because of Jesus. This is how God told us He loved us and that He loves you.”

My Mandarin speaking friends jumped in at that point and together we spent the next 15 minutes sharing the Gospel with both of them. They listened so intently, you could tell the Holy Spirit was working in their hearts. She told us that she could not sleep at night, she has so many questions.

 

August 2014 – I want to ask you to please join me in praying specifically for these requests and a few others that I don’t have the space to tell you about:

1. Four students will join our church’s summer camp this Friday and Saturday. Pray they will know Jesus Christ.
2. Richard, Vivien and their two girls to know Jesus Christ.

November 2014 – You remember Richard and Christine, from our Saturday evening Bible study. This past Saturday, we continued working through our overview of the Bible – along with answering their questions about Baptism, the Holy Spirit, and some passages they had questions about from their Bible reading. At the end of the class, Richard said, “So, for next week’s class, can we just talk about how to believe in Jesus?”. They are really trying to understand what faith is and what it means to trust in Jesus.

Will you please pray specifically right now and throughout this week for Richard and Christine to hear the Holy Spirit’s call and respond in faith. Would you pray that they would know Jesus’ love and presence in their lives. Would you pray for John (my Taiwanese partner) and I as we prepare to lead them this next week.

Mid-November 2014 – As we continue to work through the questions our Saturday night group has about following Jesus. Richard and Christine (above) and others continue to question how they can follow Jesus and continue to honor their parents. Here in Taiwan, honoring your parents translates into worshipping your parents and all of your ancestors who have passed into the other world. Therefore, to follow Christ means to abandon your parents and ancestors to roam the afterlife as ghosts without anyone to care for them. It is the greatest shame and dishonor a son or daughter could bring on their parents.

December 2014 – My friend Stephen is one of the first people I met at Taichung Baptist Church besides Pastor Lu. Stephen has studied in the states, has a couple of teenage boys, loves sharing the Gospel and works at one of Nike’s biggest shoe suppliers. He has a passion for reaching lost people and together we have become a great team.

This past week, he sent me a message inviting me to an event on Sunday afternoon at the church. Turns out it was a new member orientation. We invited all of the people I’ve brought over the past few months and most of them came. Fannie, Vincent, Richard & Christine, Stone & Vivian and many others. I share this with you so you know that the people you pray for are being followed up with, loved and cared for by a church family. They are being loved into the Kingdom of God, drawn by grace.

Please keep praying.

After the meeting, Stephen took Richard, Vincent and I to a company sponsored basketball game over at the Sport’s University. After it was over, he and I walked back to where he parked his car and he told me that Richard’s father was getting pretty upset because Richard was going to church too often. Richard’s father is very involved in several of the large temples here in Taichung. The enemy is digging his claws in for a fight, so please pray that God will set Richard and Christine and these others free!

Maybe this will be their first Christmas…with Christ.

February 2015 – After you began praying for Richard and Christine, it seemed like things became worse. Richard’s parents own three houses of which they live in one. In their belief, they owe worship and honor to their grandparents and ancestors for providing these houses. It is their duty to worship them and give them honor in the afterlife in return for their provision in this life. This is part of their ancestor worship.

That night, Richard’s father gave them an ultimatum. If you become a Christian – get out. You can no longer live in the family house and we will no longer provide you any financial support. It’s a little hard to understand in our western culture, but it is very common in this culture for families to share resources intergenerationally.

Along with asking you to pray, I called our pastor and his wife, who already knew Richard and Christine and they met for lunch the next day to pray with them and give them wise counsel.

That night, Richard’s uncle, his father’s brother showed up at their house unannounced and uninvited. Richard told me this was very uncommon and out of the ordinary. His uncle spent a great amount of time talking with his father telling him it was no big deal for Richard and Christine to go to church. The uncle had many Christian friends and customers and thought they were great. In the end, the father told Richard and Christine they could stay in the family home and he would no longer oppose them going to church.

Oh, and the best part! Richard and Christine are trusting in Christ!

September 2015 – Richard and Christine (Click Here for their story) had their baby!!! Crista and I were able to go and visit them at their new home – away from their family. They are now free to attend church, have joined a small group and are growing in their faith. Richard told us they were praying together on Friday night when Christine gripped his arm and said – “We need to go to the hospital NOW!”. Please continue to pray for their growth in Christ and as new parents who really want to raise their children to know Christ and separate from the traditions of their past while still loving and caring for their family.

Today – Richard and Christine and their girls are all active in their church and continue to follow Christ. Join our newsletter for continued updates.

What’s Missing From This Picture?

This past Saturday morning, I woke up to find this picture in my Facebook news feed. Pictured are several members from Taichung Baptist Church along with Sophie smack dab in the middle of the back row! I was so excited to see this picture and to be able to share it with you because of this reason – there aren’t any missionaries in the photo!

We have been working over the past year with our church to make a path for our friends to connect with and develop relationships with Taiwanese Christian brothers and sisters who can help disciple and plant them firmly in their faith.

This group was birthed out of the Pastor’s small group that I participated in over the past year – the focus being on reaching lost people with the Gospel and bringing them into our lives so they get discipled and connected with the family of believers.

Sophie is still a part of our lives and we will continue to love and walk with her, but she now has a group of Taiwanese believers to walk with her on her faith journey. We are working now to connect more and more of our young people with these groups so they have the same opportunity as Sophie.

I Need To Tell My Parents

This past week after church, Blaze (pictured above with our TBC Amarillo group) and I were talking with one of our newer members and he shared how he had recently trusted Christ but hadn’t told his parents yet. Eric, who is also Taiwanese and understands all too well the cost of following Jesus, asked me what I had to say to Blaze and other young people who would choose to follow Christ knowing full well that it might cost them the relationship with their parents.

Just that evening we had talked about the passage where Jesus’ mother came to find him and he told those around him that his mother and brothers were those who heard God’s word and obeyed. I reminded him that as important and great as the family he was born into was, God had given him a new family and that any pain or suffering following Jesus might cost would ultimately be worth it.

Blaze looked at both of us and said, “I know this, and I know that I need to tell my parents. Otherwise how can they know the Gospel?”

I want to ask you to pray specifically for him as he prepares to do this. He hasn’t decided when, but he will. This past week, we met to learn how to pray – and we prayed specifically for this together. Pray that God will use this to draw his parents and sister to Christ.

And, if you happen to be on the path of my October trip to the states, I have some great news for you – Blaze is coming with me, so you will get to meet him in person!

So Many Good Things

This week we said goodbye to both the Oklahoma Baptist Mission Team and our own Trinity Baptist Mission Team as well as Jeff and Sherill Ritter, our long time friends and Mission Taiwan Board Members.

It’s always difficult to say goodbye after such an intense and rewarding time together, but we are very thankful that God provided this great time together for us.

There are so many good things to tell you about, I’ll just try to give you a few of the highlights.

For those of you wondering about the effects of the recent Typhoon, Nepartak, apart from some light rain, we were completely untouched here in Taichung. The worst effects were on the south end of the island where there was a great deal of damage and destruction.


The picture above is our Sunday night fellowship. We expected that our attendance would drop off when summer started because many of our expatriate friends left for vacation and stateside visits, but actually we grew over the last few weeks with a good number of visitors coming from the outreaches that our mission teams led.


This year we had a special group that was honored for coming to serve the National Taiwan Sports University. They were recognized because they had made this trip four times or more. From right to left, Jeff & Sherill Ritter, Jordan Hodge, Tona Debord & Morgan Williams.

Because of the doors our short term mission teams open for us, the people we meet in just a few weeks would otherwise take us well over a year to engage and get to know.

This photo is from the night we said goodbye to our mission team from Trinity Baptist in Amarillo.

Each year we continue to see a greater openness to the Gospel than ever before. The Bible says we are to pray for workers to go into the harvest field. Thank you for praying for us and for these teams as they go into the harvest field – it is ripe for harvesting!


On the last day of Summer English Camp, Olivia asked everyone to stand up and share about their experience. This is what Sophie (pictured above) said: She told everyone about her struggle to believe and trust in Jesus. She said that she believed God had sent all of these Christians to share the Gospel with her, but every time she returned to her home, she was confronted with her family religion and the years of believing something completely different. She said that she would one day be a Christian, and asked everyone to pray for her.

You have prayed for her before and the fight for her soul is real, the enemy will not easily let her go, but we know that our God is able to deliver to the uttermost! Pray for her salvation!

1096 Days – Three Years in Taiwan

I want to share some of the things that your prayers and financial support have been a part of making happen over the past few weeks.

First, one that is related to our children moving overseas. CLICK HERE to watch our son Andrew tell his story about moving to Taiwan. We have asked you on many occasions to remember our family and especially our children as they essentially get dragged along with us on this journey. This past week, they all have had an opportunity to share their stories with different groups of people and it has been so encouraging to hear them tell how God has used the challenges to grow and prepare them.

Second, you have been praying fervently for the people we write about to know Jesus as their savior. Well, you can rejoice today that you have a new brother in Christ! Blaze put his faith and trust in Jesus Christ this past week during our Sunday outreach Bible study. This decision has been a long time coming.

The collage below highlights the past year of knowing Blaze. The pictures start in the bottom right corner and work their way from right to left until you reach the top right. Blaze first came to English camp at the sports university last summer, then entered his military service shortly after the group left. He was stationed near Taichung, so we were able to keep in touch and he joined both of the Sunday outreach Bible studies at Taichung Baptist. There were lots of weekend dinners and movies and he came to church as often as he could. Many people have been involved in sharing the Gospel with him over the past year and walking with him through his journey to know Christ. He’s been prayed for and loved by Christian brothers and sisters on both sides of the world and this past week, it all came together when the Holy Spirit called him to believe.

Third, our Sunday English Ministry at Taichung Baptist has been growing each week with more and more new friends joining us. We have achieved our goal of reaching both expats and the english speaking community as well as providing a place for Taiwanese people seeking to know more about the Bible and Jesus Christ to come and get introduced to Him. It is the most friendly and diverse community in Taichung.

Thank you for being a vital part of our ministry team. Praying, working, giving is the other side of going. We are very grateful. 

It was three years ago this week that we boarded the plane to leave for Taiwan. We had little idea of what things would look like today. Would we survive? Would our children hate us forever? Would we be able to learn the language? Would our friends remember us? 

Thank you for being a part of the great story God is writing here. Because of your prayers, your financial support and your encouragement – we have not only survived, but daily experience God’s grace and provision. Our children don’t hate us and usually really like it here, we have learned the language and it does seem that you remember us – especially in prayer!

Todd & Crista
Katelyn, Ashlyn & Andrew

Andrew’s Story

Over the past three years I’ve had the privilege of watching my son being to change into a young man. There are lots of things I love about Andrew, his sense of humor, his compassion for others, his love for children, but after you watch this, you will probably understand what I love most about him right now. This is his own story that he shared for the first time with a group of Chinese students at Providence University.

After the video stops, he continued talking with the students about the day God saved him and what happened during that experience.

Join the Team and Support Mission Taiwan

 

Why You Should Invite Missionaries To Visit Your Church

Having a missionary visit your church and/or home can be an exciting opportunity to educate the congregation or your family about what’s happening around the world. In addition, if it is a missionary you support you will become even more connected and personally be able to relate to the reports you receive from across the world.

You’ll learn about the country where the missionary serves and about issues facing the people of that country.

Questions you and the missionary may consider as you prepare for a visit:

What does your congregation need to hear at this moment?
What does your congregation need to know about that region of the world?
What are your congregation’s particular mission needs?
What are the issues with which your congregation is dealing?
What is happening in your surrounding community?
Are you struggling with how to reach marginalized groups in the community (the poor, homeless, ethnic groups)?
Your missionary’s experience in dealing with global issues may lend some insights into working with these questions. Be prepared to listen with open hearts and minds.

Some possible activities to consider planning during a missionary visit:

Give the missionary as much time as possible to meet and talk with the people of the church. Of course the missionary knows you have valuable programming and other things to consider, but consider the time the missionary has arranged to be away from their family and ministry to share even just briefly with your congregation. Sometimes the missionary is forced to make difficult choices between speaking venues based on the amount of time a church will allow them to speak. Make it worth both parties interest when you invite them to come. And be sure to brief the missionary in advance about your plans and expectations for their visit.

Here are some other ideas if time is available:

  • Invite a missionary to accompany you to a local homeless mission, migrant camp, battered women’s shelter, children’s shelter, etc. When you return to the church, prepare a meal together and debrief about what you saw, experienced and felt. The missionary can make connections with his/her experience, guiding discussion and closing with worship.
  • Meet with youth. Missionaries can make a great impact on youth and their thinking about the church, the world, and how they can be involved.
  • Have a mission event. Serve a meal typical to the country where the missionary lives. Use Global Ministries placemats. Invite members to bring international centerpieces. Include songs in another language. Put the nation’s flag on each table. Give ample time for the missionary to share his/her story.
  • Hold a mission fair. Have booths, each including what church school classes are studying about the country or issues faced by the people – information available from your church headquarters, the local library, newspapers or magazines. Invite the missionary to be the keynote speaker.
  • Include the missionary in worship. Invite the missionary to do the children’s sermon during worship, preach, or give a stewardship/communion meditation.
  • Involve missionaries in Conferences, Retreats, Annual Meetings, Regional Assemblies. Invite missionaries to provide leadership on mission, human rights and community development from a Christian perspective, or lead a spiritual development retreat.
  • Plan Informal gatherings at a church member’s home on a weeknight or for lunch. Large numbers are not important. Those who are interested will come.
  • Invite the missionary to area church events, Regional/Conference committee meetings or events, citywide ministerial meetings.
  • Invite the missionary to meet and brainstorm with your outreach/mission committee and to pray with your prayer group.
  • Include the missionary in your evangelism team visits as you call on prospective members or visit those who are in jail.
  • Meet with these church groups/task forces: church school classes, women’s and men’s fellowship groups, church governing board, youth groups, seniors’ groups
    groups addressing hunger/poverty/health/education/human rights/refugee and immigration issues.

Sharing Christ at Chinese New Year

 

Do you like Red?

It’s Chinese Lunar New Year! A time for cleaning, decorating, preparing red envelopes, planning meals and getting ready for family to visit. Well, if you are of Chinese heritage that is.

So you might be thinking, “Isn’t this just a Chinese holiday? What does it have to do with Jesus?”

Jesus makes all things secular sacred, so even during this particularly Asian holiday there is an opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ using the themes that are all around us.

The Significance of the Color Red

Red is significant to the Chinese/Taiwanese because it is the symbolic color of wealth, happiness, and good luck which is celebrated during Chinese New Year. The reason for this is born out of superstition and myth.

According to legend, at the start of the new year in ancient China, there was a mythical beast called “Nian” who would come on the first day to devour the livestock, destroy the crops they had planted, and terrorize people especially their children.

In order to protect themselves, the people would place food in front of their doors. This was so that the beast would consume the food rather than entering into the house and consuming their children.

One New Years day, it was discovered that the “Nian” was scared away by a little girl wearing red. It was then that the Chinese people understood that the “Nian” was afraid of the colour red. And so, based on this legend and superstition, at every New Year, people would hang red lanterns and wear red. Especially at their homes, red banners are placed over the front entrance of the house in order to ward off evil spirits and misfortune.

From ancient times until today a majority of Chinese people place red lanterns and decorations in their homes, hang red banners over their doors, and even wear red outfits.

As Christians, red is also an important color to us. We remember in Scriptures that God instructed the Israelites to sacrifice a perfect lamb and use its blood to paint the posts and lintel of the door to their homes.

The reason for this was because the Lord was about to unleash the 10th and most devastating plague upon the people. The death angel would enter into their houses and kill the firstborn of the people. Only those houses which were covered with the blood of the lamb would be spared.

As believers, when we see red, we can also be reminded of the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, shed for us so that we are passed over for judgment. We are under the blood of Jesus, both literally and figuratively.

So during Chinese New Year, as you see Chinese people wearing red clothes and placing red banners over their doors, remember what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you and be thankful for your salvation.

Take this great opportunity to ask them why they are wearing red, why they are placing the banners and then see if God gives you an opportunity to share why you love the color red also.