This summer, my wife and I had the joy of leading a mission trip with Word of Life called Student Fusion. These trips are designed to give students a taste of missions in a foreign country. Our team consisted of two married couples, four college students, sixteen high school students, and my three children.
On July 3, everyone on the team gathered for the first time at Word of Life Bible Institute in Pottersville, New York, for several days of training, team building, and preparation. Just four days later, our group had already bonded as we boarded our direct flight to Lisbon, Portugal. We would spend the next eight days in the middle of the European heat wave, working together to minister to the Portuguese people.
I felt like a proud parent as I watched our team grow their confidence in talking about Jesus and in relationally sitting down with people to talk to them about their need for Jesus Christ. Our team shared the gospel 175 times in our brief time there, with four of these people we shared with choosing to put their faith in Him!
Looking back at our time in Portugal, I can identify five benefits of participating in short-term missions for students:
1. Ministry Training
Of all the preparations that are made, perhaps none is more important than training the team on how to share the gospel. This starts with going deep in the gospel for the sake of gospel fluency, and then training them in multiple methods for how to share their faith. Word of Life put a high priority on training our team before we left the United States. Each student was given time to share their testimony and practice sharing the gospel conversationally with one another.
2. Ministry Experience
Over the course of our trip, students were able to minister in numerous ways; a heavy emphasis was placed on evangelism throughout these various opportunities. They had kitchen responsibilities after each meal, and they helped prepare the camp property for the summer camp that would begin just after our team left. Our students also had a special time ministering to all the children of the missionaries one morning. But the one ministry our team took part in more than any other was that of evangelism. Everyone was able to share the gospel on the streets of Lisbon and Montijo. Giving students the opportunity to share their faith with a stranger is a wonderful way to practice evangelism, because it prepares them to do the same with their friends when they return home.
3. Experience of a Different Culture
While Portugal is historically a Roman Catholic nation, it is considered to be a post-Christian nation today. Though cathedrals, monuments, and even pilgrimage sites remain, the influence of Christianity in Portuguese culture has passed. This was not as great of an obstacle as one might assume when we were sharing the gospel. Rather, we found those we talked with to be open to discussions about their need for Jesus. This is probably not the norm, but we praise God for answering our prayers and allowing us to have good conversations with people.
4. New Relationships
Our team not only formed relationships with one another, but we also got to know some of the missionaries and their families. Students saw the commitment of these missionaries to spreading the gospel in a relatively unreached, post-Christian people group. They saw that missionaries are real people with normal families and similar interests. They also learned the reality that the mission field is not always easy, but that reaching the lost with the good news of Jesus is always worth it.
5. Processing Their Faith
Mission trips have a unique way of removing students from their comfort zones, stretching them, and challenging their faith. Our group took time together to talk about what we experienced each day, making it a point to learn what we could. God did a mighty work in many lives during our trip, perhaps most significantly within our team. Students left talking about the impact the trip had on their perspective of ministry. They expressed a desire to get further involved with missions, support missionaries they know, and make renewed commitments to their personal walk with Christ.
For more information about going on a short-term mission trip with Word of Life, visit https://missions.wol.org/.
Dustan Horst is the Word of Life area missionary for Ohio and West Virginia. He and his wife, Elizabeth, have been serving with Word of Life since 2010 and have been serving in Ohio since 2011. They have three young children.