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The value of short-term workers

“Elfie-Elf!” our four-year-old yelled as she ran into church and grabbed onto the leg of her favourite elf-hat-wearing person. This man was not a family member or even a member of our ministry team—he was a short-term worker from Northern Ireland. Yet such was the joy in their relatively short “friendship”, that this enthusiastic greeting was the norm.

Our daughter did not care what country Ray came from, how old he was, or that he spoke with a funny accent; she just knew that time with Ray was full of fun, silly games, and undivided attention.

Short-term workers encourage

The world of a TCK (Third Culture Kid, a common term for missionary kid) is filled with change, cultural challenges, and a degree of uncertainty; but friendships with short-term workers like Ray are like a nugget of gold in a rugged landscape. For parents too, having short-term workers join them in ministry is like a breath of fresh air.

When we read Paul’s letters in the New Testament it is clear that “short-term” workers played a vital role in his ministry too. If you skim through the endings of Paul’s letters they are full of names of those who were serving with him at that particular time. Some workers were with Paul for long periods (Timothy, Luke, etc.), but many are only mentioned once and presumably spent limited time with Paul. Their contribution, however, was no doubt significant for the kingdom of God and a great encouragement to Paul.

I used to play basketball in Australia, and player participation varied from week to week. Sometimes we only had five players (i.e. no substitutes). These were tough nights! In the first half I could enjoy uninterrupted play without being “benched”, but the second half was not so enjoyable. Our team would tire and start making mistakes. Inevitably we would start to be overtaken on the scoreboard. Bench players had a lot of value.

While short-term workers are not mere “bench players”, they can fulfil some similar functions. Long-term workers are human. We get tired, we get discouraged, and over time we can lack fresh ideas and energy. Short-term workers bring all of this in abundance! They are often enthusiastic and bring a variety of gifts and passions.

They reach different people

I went to one ministry event run by short-termers recently and, despite only being in my mid-30s, felt so old. The short-term team was reaching a demographic of people that I was unable to. They were opening doors into schools and universities. Something our long-term team had difficulty with.

This was the body of Christ working as it should. “From him [Christ] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16 NIV).

I continue to pray for the Lord to raise up many more short-term workers for Japan and other nations. In doing so long-term workers are inspired, the excitement of mission is taken back to sending countries, and more long-term workers are raised up. Short-term workers help grow the kingdom of God and bring glory to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. And there is nothing more valuable than that.

By Paul Jessop

Will you pray for Japan?

  • That God would raise up many more short- and long-term workers for Japan.
  • For long-term workers to be inspired by the short-termers who come.
  • That God’s kingdom would grow in Japan because of the workers he sends there.


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