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Posts Tagged: short-term missions

Should I Pass Out My Email on a Short-Term Missions Trip - Part 2

Oct. 5, 2016By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation on yesterdays post look at the impact of passing out your personal contact information on short-term mission trips. Jeff Athersone is a missionary of Training Leaders International and serves as Chancellor of African Renewal University.

This past month I know two Ugandans who sent out some heart wrenching emails to Americans who had recently served on a short-term team. One email was a prayer request for a young girl who was raped on her way home from church. The other email was from a young man who desperately needed surgery. Both emails tugged at the reader’s hearts so they forwarded the emails on to me asking how they could help or send money.

I have had this happen a number of times before so I am used to following these types of situations up. I have learned not to lead in with what I heard but instead just to ask how the person is doing. In each case both of the people I called were surprised that I was calling them and seemed surprised that I would think anything was wrong.

The reason being both were working on an email scam and didn’t know that I had seen their emails. Here is how it works.

1) The short-term visitor and national exchange contact info (email, facebook, etc).
2) A few messages are sent to establish contact and to thank the visitor for coming to Uganda.

3) The national reports a crisis that they are indirectly involved in to gauge the emotional response.
4) Final step, they report a crisis directly involving themselves.
5) Now the American is deeply involved and 99 times out of 100 the American asks "How can I help?" and the exchange of money begins. Notice that in steps. 1-4 there is absolutely no request for money.

At this point you might be wondering, “Is this really a scam?”

Even though there is no request for money I do believe it is a scam. When the national doesn’t report the situation to a national ministry or missionary on the ground you have to wonder “why are they not seeking help locally?” In a poor country like Uganda where corruption is the norm most of the people sending these emails are looking for a quick buck and that is why they are passing by the local ministries that can use their understanding of the culture and person to make an informed decision.

As a short term visitor one of the greatest things you can do is to empower the local church and local ministries by referring these requests back to them and asking them to discern what is the best way to help. The majority of the time money is not the answer but instead there is need for counseling and discipleship which isn’t a quick fix but it sure has better results. If the local ministry does agree that the problem is money the best thing to do is to give through the local ministry so that there is accountability and the person receiving help isn’t tempted to create more problems in the future to collect more funds.

When in doubt I always encourage people to turn the tables. If a Ugandan was visiting the US and they got to meet the people in your church would you believe that the people in your church could receive the best counsel, support and encouragement through emailing the Ugandan once they returned home? Or do you think that the staff of your church in the US is better equipped to handle the challenges facing the people in your church?

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Should I Pass out My Email on a Short-Term Missions Trip

Oct. 3, 2016By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio
Editor’s Note: Over the next two days we will look at the impact of passing out your personal contact information on short-term mission trips. Jeff Atherstone is a missionary of Training Leaders International and serves as Chancellor of Africa Renewal University.

Over the past 7+ years I have had the opportunity to host over 300 short-term visitors in Uganda at Africa Renewal University. We have been blessed to have teaching teams, construction teams, community outreach teams and curriculum development teams.

I always encourage the teams to exchange their emails with the management staff at ARU. The national ARU staff have excellent training in theology and development issues so they can help the visitors as they learn about cross-cultural ministry. By exchanging emails the relationships that were established during the trip can continue and a “peer relationship” between the two cultures can begin to form.

When the staff communicates with the visitors through email the discussion usually revolves around projects that we are working in partnership on with the visitors, curriculum that we are developing together and the sharing of resources on the web that we can both learn from. This type of “peer relationship” has been a very empowering exercise for my staff helping them to put aside the “colonial mindset” that many were raised in which taught them that they were inferior to Western visitors.

Although I encourage visitors to exchange emails with the people that they are “ministering alongside” I do not encourage them to exchange emails with the people that they are “ministering to.”

There are a number of hazards that come with this type of email exchange. One hazard is that this can lead to scams and frauds, which are common through email and I will address this in another post. The primary hazard that I wish to address today is that by exchanging emails you can actually have a negative impact on the local ministry.

We have experienced this a number of times where a visitor begins emailing a student of ours and the effects can be damaging to the development of the student. The visitor will often offer the student gifts or money that other students do not receive which can cause the students to become jealous of each other and can even bring competition between the students for the visitor’s attention.

The other problem with the visitors offering our students gifts and money is that our university training is helping to give students the skills they need to lift themselves and their communities out of poverty. By offering the students these benefits the visitors are moving them back to the “begging culture” that we are trying to lift the students out of.

Aside from the offer of gifts and money the visitor’s emails are robbing the students of the discipleship relationships that are right in front of them. Email is a great tool but it can never replace direct human interaction for discipleship but too often nationals are more interested in emailing a rich visitor from the West rather than connecting with their national pastor or ministry leaders. The discipleship that I have seen effectively done through emails begins with a long-term relationship not just 2-weeks together on a short-term experience.

The exchange of gifts and discipleship might not be the key issues for other ministries but one thing remains constant – the nationals and missionaries on the ground will always have a greater understanding of how to minister to the people where they serve. That is why God has called and placed them there! The role of the short term visitor is a supportive role and should be to come alongside local ministries joining the Gospel- movement that is taking place on the ground.

Just because someone has spent two weeks in Uganda or even been on ten trips to Uganda that does not make them an expert on the issues facing Uganda. Be careful who you hand your email out to and make sure that your ongoing communication is a blessing to the ministry and people you came to minister alongside of.

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Does Your Short-Term Trip Hurt Long-Term Missionaries?

Dec. 17, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Does your short-term trip negatively impact the missionaries you are working with?

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Face Painting in Western Africa

Nov. 11, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

There are always pitfalls to cross-cultural engagement.  Well-meaning people, wishing to serve Christ, travel on short-term trips every year hoping God will use them to serve believers around the world. However, without a lot of thought to how other cultures view certain activities, some trips can harm the local churches we desire to serve.

Fanciful-Faces-Chicago-Face-Painter-FP-Web-BBTake for example a recent trip to West Africa where one of the tasks was the face-painting of children. Go to any fair in the US and you will see children begging their parents to have someone paint their face.  However, in the region of the country this short-term team was visiting, face painting was associated with witchcraft.  The team could not figure out why the children were crying while they painted their face.  Later that night the children were beat by their parents.  

How would a short-term team avoid such a situation? It is simple.  Instead of telling missionaries what you intend to do when you go to partner with them, ask them what would be best.  

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Teaching, Preaching and Information Dumping

Sep. 21, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio


Jesus once said, "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up inhis heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."  The heart is a wellspring of life.  What infects the heart, influences the rest of the person.

There is a way of teaching that is actually teaching and there is a way of teaching that is nothing more than information dumping.  Similarly, there is a way I should talk to my wife that actually engages her and there is way where I only state facts and stay disconnected.  I've done both in case you are wondering.  In the first option I have a dynamic understanding of what is being discussed, while in the second I am reading I teleprompter or transcript and will forget it when I am done reading.

I am afraid that many teachers and preachers are not teaching or preaching at all.  They are just dumping information on people.  I have seen it happen in the business world when someone gives a presentation that someone else was meant to do.  I have seen it in parenting when after you read the latest parenting technique you follow the script without a broader understanding.  And I have certainly seen it in the church!  If you find yourself in the role of teacher for the Church, here are some caution flags.  

  1. You are not teaching if you are second-handing your teaching material.  If you regurgitate sermons, commentaries and lecture notes and don’t teach from your own material. it's not teaching.
  2. You are not teaching if you are content to teach the same things from the same notes over and over again.  Of course you often teach the same things, but if you never adjust, make changes or add new insights you are not teaching.
  3. If you are preacher and your sermon prep started and ended on saturday you are probably not preaching.  You are not allowing anytime for the text to marinate in you heart.  You read a few commentaries, take what they say, get an illustration from a book or internet article and the sermon is completed.  You haven’t preached it to yourself or applied it all week.  You are just passing information from a book to a person.  You may get angry people don’t remember what you preached on, but in all honestly, you won’t either.
  4. You are not teaching if as a professor at a school, you teach from the same lecture notes you did 10 years ago.  There is no update, no interaction with new (helpful or not) scholarship.  You don’t think about how your students have changed or how they are receiving what you are teaching.  You are just dumping information.
  5. You are not teaching if you don’t adjust your teaching style according to culture.  We see this in TLI A LOT, and is something I have had to learn (the hard way if I am honest).  Again, you don’t have a dynamic relationship with those you teach.  

What causes information dumping?  Laziness.  As a pastor or teacher or both, you have been tasked to study and feed the people of God.  You have not been tasked to feast for a few years in school and then fast for the rest of your ministry.  Feed yourself.  Feed the sheep. Jesus said that somewhere too.

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