Feature

A New Kind of Missions

Creating a link between North and South Americans

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It’s no secret that a number of people are leery of short-term missions trips. Some think it’s money poorly invested on joy trips or “vacations.” Others say that the teams take up too much of the missionaries’ valuable time that could be put into “real” ministry instead of “babysitting” spoiled North Americans.

My husband, Rich, and I weren’t sure what the truth was. We had a great experience taking our group to Ecuador when we were youth pastors in the United States, and we had seen spiritual, intellectual and cultural growth in our students. They worked side by side with the youth from Ecuador and treasured the bonds they made. Our small group stayed in different homes in the city and learned a lot about their own prejudices and preconceived ideas of what “foreign” people were like. But what about people in the host country? Do they benefit from a short-term team rolling into town?

Our Answer

It wasn’t until we had served as missionaries for five years in Peru that we were able to answer this question. During our second term in Trujillo, we were asked to be part of a church-planting team with Chuck and Robbi Fanberg. We were excited. We were “hiving off” of a large Alliance church, and were taking 200 members to help us start this church plant. Talk about easy!

We bought a large home on one of the busiest roads in the city to use as a church building. But we needed help with construction. How were we going to make this huge house a church? The congregation was already reaching out to the neighborhood, and we were growing by leaps and bounds! We needed some help to convert the building.

Short-term teams started arriving in the summer and got right to work. They did construction in the morning and evangelism in the afternoons. The excitement was palpable. The church Body grew as the sanctuary became larger and more user-friendly. Everyone felt ownership and worked hard alongside the teams. Friendships were forged.

If you took a poll of our church members today, they would all have something wonderful to say about short-term missions. Some became Christians because these teams visited them; some learned more about God’s love and power through the team members’ testimonies and many jobless men in our church were hired with funds from these teams to help build the church.

The “Link”

When Rich and I moved to Ecuador last year, we wanted to keep this link between North and South American teens. A few short months into our transition to Ecuador, Inca Link was born.

Inca Link connects North Americans to churches in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. Through Inca Link, we provide North Americans with cultural and language training, hands-on construction experience, evangelism opportunities and the chance to form interpersonal relationships with nationals as well as raise global awareness through garbage-dump, prison and orphanage ministries. We have times of debriefing so participants can process their experiences. Also, we challenge them to return home as changed people. Our prayer is that each person makes a lifetime commitment to be involved in promoting missions to the poor around the world.

Last year, we hosted more than 300 “short-termers” with Inca Link. In the process, we built churches, schools and cafeterias for Alliance churches that work with Compassion International to feed children. We built a home for a needy pastor and a large training center for church leaders. Part of the money raised by these teams funds our youth ministry efforts in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. This has enabled us to train youth pastors, send them to other countries for Youth Specialties Seminars, hold retreats for them and bless them with resources for ministry.

Want to Come?

To link this new generation of North American youth to missions, we have encouraged each participant to commit to a monthly sacrifice by giving to the U.S. Great Commission Fund (GCF) or the Canadian Global Advance Fund (GAF). Last summer we gave each short-termer a prayer card with our picture, including a Faith Promise card. Praise God that $15,000 was raised for the GCF or GAF by short-term teams. We are convinced that these short missions trips can impact people for eternity, not just for two weeks.

We also are discipling and mentoring interns in the process. Twelve interns have come to gain hands-on experiences with missions and short-term teams. This provides them with a good opportunity to see if they might want to become career missionaries. One of our interns from last year is now studying to be an Alliance missionary.

As we have poured into the interns’ lives, they have helped tremendously with the 300 short-termers who visited last year. They are helping us organize, coordinate and even pastor the teams as they lead them through the debriefing process to engage and promote missions. Some interns stay a couple months. Others stay a full year, but all have impacted our lives, ministry and family.

Our vision for 2007 is to develop Inca Link in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. We need interns to help. In Peru, we plan to build an orphanage/children’s home in the garbage dump. The ministry in the garbage dump was started in 2003, and our youth group leaders have kept a steady ministry going ever since. They meet every week with the guys to play soccer and encourage them. Nearly 30 women regularly attend Bible study. We have done vacation Bible school right in the middle of the garbage, and now there are 45 children meeting weekly for Bible Club. 

We want to build a children’s home because most of the kids in the garbage dump, although they have a living parent, are left to fend for themselves. We would love to offer them a warm bed at night, a safe place to learn and play and at least two healthy meals a day. In the future we would have workshops for the parents, and the goal would be to reconcile families. The government is willing to donate land, we just need to build the building!

There are churches like ours in Peru that are growing numerically and are just waiting for a “link” to keep the infrastructure growing at the same rate. There are schools, cafeterias, homes and churches that will grow because of people who sense the call to come. We need interns and short-termers who can help with Web pages, Internet blogs, videos, dramas, skits, construction, evangelism and so much more. Interested? Let us connect you with some of the coolest people in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia.

If you would like to send a short-term team or serve as an intern, contact us at richandlisa@gmail.com. You may also visit our Spanish Web site: www.puravidaalianza.com. Or contact the Short Term Missions Office at STMO@cmalliance.org.

A Heart for Change

As an intern, I was able to directly see God use Inca Link to affect local communities and individuals, youth groups and missions teams and the interns themselves. 
Before I became an intern, I had the opportunity to be part of a short-term team with Inca Link during spring break. My experience that week greatly influenced how I thought about God, how I viewed foreign countries and people, how I viewed Christianity and missions and how I personally related to God and His plan. When I returned as an intern in the summer, I was able to see these same changes take place in the individuals who came. And this kind of change isn’t temporary—it has a lasting effect on youths’ lives as they return home. It did for me.

It gave me and others a heart for missions—not necessarily a heart to become a full-time missionary, but a heart that is open to the idea of missions and God’s personal call and a heart that supports missions in whatever manner He has intended. It’s the kind of heart that comes from being drawn closer to God and His desires.

When a young person witnesses the Lord’s work in missions, even for one week, it has an influence that doesn’t fade. Youth are open and searching, and Inca Link allows them to find God by showing them His community from a different perspective than they get at home.

Any change in a teenager’s heart is true and lasting and will shape the outcome of his or her entire life. This is only one aspect of Inca Link’s effects. It has no limits!
—Joseph

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