Short-term mission: expectations vs reality

Naomi Brown

I’m studying French, German and Italian at the University of Bristol and spent part of my year abroad with Crosslinks.

I wanted to serve the Lord and find out what ministry in France was like. My degree required I also go to Italy and Germany so I only had the summer free. I almost thought it wouldn’t be worth it but I went ahead with planning anyway. 

Expectations

I spent two months in a church in La Garenne-Colombes in the suburbs of Paris. Being there for only a few weeks, I honestly was not expecting to be able to scrape even the surface of true ministry life in Paris. I didn’t think I would be able to contribute anything like what I could in the familiar setting of the UK, speaking my own language. With all my good intentions, I thought I would probably be more of a burden than a help. 

Reality

What I hadn’t realised was how privileged we are in the UK. Our country is built upon a Christian heritage. We have an abundance of churches seeking to know God personally by opening his word. We have so many great Christian books in our language that help us explore topics that don’t often come up in Sunday sermons, answer our questions and guide our personal bible reading. We have so many events, summer camps and conferences where adults, children and youth are taught and help us build and sustain a network of Christian friends. I was beginning to take a lot of this for granted, even though I have not always lived in the UK!

The very secular culture in France discourages open dialogue about faith. There are fewer churches, a smaller selection of Christian literature and generally smaller Christian circles. Going to France made me realise that my experience in the UK, however limited, could be of value. The fact that I had prepared a bible study before was helpful when I had opportunities to teach in children’s church and lead bible discussions in small groups and one-to-one. The fact that I had grown up with people from different backgrounds helped me talk to new people at church. The fact that I had been involved with CU mission events helped me explain the gospel and answer questions on camp. Even though these things felt scary and I didn’t think my French was up to scratch, the minister in Paris challenged and encouraged me to do them. And through them I learned how to better serve practically and simply ‘do life’ with my church family in France. 

Maybe you’re considering short term mission of some sort but you don’t know if it’s worth the effort. Appreciate the opportunity and freedom we have as Christians in the UK to live out, grow and proclaim our faith. Don’t, like I did, underestimate how much you can learn in another context and how much it will humble, challenge and grow you in your faith. 

Find out more about Crosslinks short-term mission or year abroad placements.