Can short-term mission be a valuable way to play a part in God’s mission? Adam Tomalin gives us the inside scoop...
So, it’s June 2016 and I’ve just spent four and half months living and serving at a church in Johannesburg. I came back enriched with a greater understanding of the country’s history, picked up parts of new languages, met lots of wonderful people, developed in my ability to read and communicate God’s word and... the list could go on! This experience – this short time in South Africa – shaped not only the next couple of years of my life in the UK but went on to instigate a complete change of direction for me.
From January to June 2016 I served at Hope Church in Johannesburg as part of my gap year. It’s a cheesy line but I can genuinely say, ‘I went away on a gap year which changed my life!’ After completing this initial short-term placement, I felt the Lord lay it on my heart to pursue a second period of ministry in Johannesburg. I decided that I would commit for two more years while discerning whether doing full-time word-based ministry is what God wants me to do long-term.
I’ve now been back in South Africa for three years and in that time a lot has happened:
To start with, I’ve developed strong relationships. This has largely happened as I’ve got to know more people in the church community, their friends and as I’ve lived with different groups of people.
I’ve also pressed hard into prevalent issues such as race, inequality, poverty and gender-based violence and seen how the gospel speaks into these areas.
I’ve developed in my ministry roles: I here as a church intern serving in music and youth ministry, then I found myself doing more student ministry and now I am the youth worker of the church.
The things I’ve learnt and picked up have been invaluable:
I’ve been learning the importance of relying and trusting in a sovereign God in all things. This, in turn, has stirred up courage and strength to step out in ways I would never have thought of before.
I’ve been reminded that our primary identity is not in our own culture or ethnicity, although these are still important. I’ve been humbly reminded how beautifully diverse our world and contexts are and how important it is to strive for unity in that diversity. It’s also been great to experience more of how big the wider Church is and how far God’s mission stretches.
And it’s been humbling to see more clearly how relevant the gospel is to so many more areas than I previously perceived. You can know this as head knowledge but that’s different from the reality permeating your heart and having a transformative impact on your life and ministry.
So, short-term mission is incredibly valuable! Short-term mission is mission! If you get the chance, I would recommend exploring different opportunities to serve in this way.
International travel may be limited at the moment but it is a great time to plan for when restrictions are lifted!
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