Facing Challenges in Short-term Missions

Written by Kirby for Go Asia (May-Aug 2017)

Sometimes missions work is not entirely about sharing the Gospel. Conferences are usually organised to create an opportunity for missionaries to have fellowship and also to better equip themselves for the changes and challenges of their ministry. Kirby’s experience in Serve Asia allowed him to adapt to these situations, especially being sensitive and quick in responding to them.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

Since I was a teen, Jesus’ very last command resonated within me deeply. By these two verses, hundreds upon thousands of missionaries have been inspired to go, leaving behind stable
lives and comfort back home — some even dying as martyrs in faraway, hostile countries. Reflecting on the verses, while thinking of how these missionaries must have been so encouraged and empowered by Jesus’ command, proliferated the calling and urge to go into the nations. This urge was further amplified through various mission trips to Cambodia, and in particular seeing the vast need of the country.

Having had some free time in between semesters at university, I felt compelled to serve Christ through short term missions, eventually stumbling onto Serve Asia’s short term mission website and finding an opportunity to serve that coincided with vacation time – an OMF Conference, Third Culture Kid (TCK) Programme.

What is a TCK? TCKs are third culture kids. They are children who are raised in a culture other than their parents’ passport country. These children grow up in many different environments and are exposed to multi cultures and languages, which can be really confusing and fazing in their developmental stages. Most of them do not know where “home” truly is for them. They have experienced many transitions, changed schools countless times and have made and said goodbye to many friends. All in all, they are precious children who are finding their faith and place in this world. They are kids who know how to live and love, and they are truly incredibly precious.

In preparation for the trip, there were approximately One Million Forms (OMF) to be signed and prepared. After which there was a short orientation at OMF HQ in Singapore. A huge part of the
preparation was for the planning of the week of activities for the TCKs and actually reading up on what life as a TCK is like.

Having absolutely no experience in teaching children constructive work, my co-teacher was kind enough to plan the entire programme by herself and asked me to help out in whatever way I could. Picking up the local language was also part of my personal preparation, as I found that locals always appreciated foreigners trying to communicate in the local language, even if it isn’t perfect.

Of course, things don’t always go as planned. On the field, even in short term missions, there is the need to always be on the ball and ready for any new challenges that might be poised. At the 2016
conference, the challenge came in the form of food poisoning. A third of the entire conference fell ill, quarantines had to be immediately put into place and the medical team had to react fast with a
measure to prevent the further spread of viruses. In an international mission organisation, there will definitely be chances of being in an intercultural environment, and there might be slight differences in cultures. Being sensitive to other cultures is very important to avoid unknowingly offending or hurting others.

I’ve personally grown as a Christian in serving these kids, learning about missions in East Asia through meal times spent talking with these parents, and been very inspired by their life and stories — what they’ve given up to go and serve overseas, how much Christ means to them, how different life is in East Asia and their sharing of struggles that they face. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that true joy and peace can be found in serving Him, even in the toughest situations, and that through the ups and downs, God will always hem us in, behind and before, and lay His hand upon us.

Do come and work with them, and find out for yourself how much these kids can make a difference in your life, just like how you would be making a difference in theirs! By being a part of the TCK ministry, you are pouring yourselves into service – of the TCKs and of their parents. And in all things that we do, may God’s name be glorified and may the whole earth hear of His mighty deeds!