Tag Archives: mission trip

Good news about spreading the Good News

As I mentioned in my summary of our Kenya mission trip, one of the highlights was taking a Proclaimer audio Bible device to the local hospital (see the portion of the original post below).  I was thrilled to get this follow-up email today from the hospital chaplain.  We’ll definitely be taking many more Proclaimers when we go back in the Summer of 2011.

I am fine and doing well both at home and at work. I wish to apologize for keeping you so long on the request you made. I was away in DRC (Congo) for mission the time the mail arrived and when i came back the demands of work and internet problem gave me a challenge.

Let me say we have been using the device and its demand is too high especially in the local church. The one you left us is only used within the hospital and if we could get others we would really appreciate. Our department was thinking if we had an intercom in the hospital we would only use one proclaimer by putting it in one place and connecting it to all the wards for all the patients to listen to the message at the same time. This would be of great help especially because the staffing is not adequate in chaplaincy unit.

For now i can say we are using the device to the maximum. We sometimes leave it with the patients after showing them how to use and they really like it. Thanks a lot to you and those who donate them. They are a great way of taking the word of God to the people.

Receive new year wishes from Maua methodist hospital, church and the chaplaincy unit.

Looking forward to seeing you next year.

God bless you.

Rev Alice

If you go on mission trips or just have a passion for getting God’s word out to be who are eager to hear it, please look into the Faith Comes By Hearing organization.  You can get free audio downloads of the New Testament and play them on your computer or iPod, or you can donate to help spread the Word.

We also took some of their mini-devices (sort of like a small iPod that only plays the Bible) and gave them to our World Vision Sponsor child and his family.  One was in Swahili and one was in English.  He just wrote and told me he is using it regularly as he buses to his college classes and back.  What a joy! 

From the original post

The Proclaimer – getting the word of God out to those who don’t read.  This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Faith Comes By Hearing translates the Bible into dozens of languages. You can download New Testament versions for free. They give away these "Proclaimer" devices so that illiterate people can hear the word of God in their languages. As noted at the bottom, these can be AC or solar powered so they can be used over and over almost anywhere.

This picture is of Reverend Alice, the hospital chaplain, explaining it to a group of patients and their children. She plans to play the Bible in Kiswahili for them regularly and to set it outside for when the patients go in the sun to warm up. She will also take it to remote locations so they can hear the word. I hope we can take more the next time.

I’m a firm believer in Isaiah 55:10-11

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

From their website:

How does the Proclaimer work? An installed microchip contains Scriptures in the heart language; the chip will not erase or wear out from frequent playing.

The battery will play for 15 hours and can be recharged enough times to play the entire New Testament more than 1,000 times.

The Proclaimer has a built-in generator and solar panel to charge the battery.

The solar panel, in addition to charging the battery, will run the Proclaimer even without battery power as long as there is sunlight.

The sound is digital quality and loud enough to be heard clearly by groups as large as 300.

The Proclaimer was developed primarily as a playback device for poor and illiterate people who may not have any other source to hear God’s Word. Our goal is to use the Proclaimer in the majority of our FCBH programs worldwide.

Very few of these people read, but now they can hear the transforming and powerful word of God. I never get tired of that.

Kenya mission trip pictures / highlights

This is a looong post – actually a bunch of posts in one — but please take time to check it out plus the links.  We had an amazing mission trip to Kenya with a group from our church.  It was my 4th trip but definitely the best because my wife joined me this time.  She was amazing – diving into everything with energy and grace even though the whole enterprise was way out of her comfort zone.

Click the links to see many more pictures.

1. Church / school in Kawangware slum – One of our projects was helping a little on the church building and doing two sessions of Vacation Bible School for the kids at the school. I was playing guitar for the VBS sessions so I don’t have pictures of that, but I’ll post pictures when I get them from others. The kids seemed to have a great time singing, dancing and playing.

This church and school is truly a beacon of light in a dark place. Worshiping with them was one of the seemingly endless highlights of the trip.

A little more background on the slum here.

2. When giraffes attack! — A visit to the giraffe park was fun. We went on the first day in Kenya as we acclimated to the time changes and such.

3. Maua Methodist Hospital – we did daily devotionals with them and various projects.

We did some painting at the hospital to help them maintain certifications that keep their reimbursements up and did some mortar work at a building they’ll use for visiting missionary doctors.

The hospital does amazing work for the community, offering low cost medical services. They save many lives. They have outstanding community programs to help AIDS orphans and to help them go to school and develop skills to support their families (sort of like a “Junior Achievement meets Jesus” program).

No, you would not want to stay there yourself, but for them it is invaluable.

Somehow I didn’t get many pictures of tea time, a nice and tasty tradition they have there.

4. Safari — We spent a couple days on safari at the end of the trip enjoying some of God’s amazing creation.

5. The Proclaimer – getting the word of God out to those who don’t read.  This is one of my favorite parts of the trip. Faith Comes By Hearing translates the Bible into dozens of languages. You can download New Testament versions for free. They give away these “Proclaimer” devices so that illiterate people can hear the word of God in their languages. As noted at the bottom, these can be AC or solar powered so they can be used over and over almost anywhere.

This picture is of Reverend Alice, the hospital chaplain, explaining it to a group of patients and their children. She plans to play the Bible in Kiswahili for them regularly and to set it outside for when the patients go in the sun to warm up. She will also take it to remote locations so they can hear the word. I hope we can take more the next time.

I’m a firm believer in Isaiah 55:10-11

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

From their website:

How does the Proclaimer work? An installed microchip contains Scriptures in the heart language; the chip will not erase or wear out from frequent playing.

The battery will play for 15 hours and can be recharged enough times to play the entire New Testament more than 1,000 times.

The Proclaimer has a built-in generator and solar panel to charge the battery.

The solar panel, in addition to charging the battery, will run the Proclaimer even without battery power as long as there is sunlight.

The sound is digital quality and loud enough to be heard clearly by groups as large as 300.

The Proclaimer was developed primarily as a playback device for poor and illiterate people who may not have any other source to hear God’s Word. Our goal is to use the Proclaimer in the majority of our FCBH programs worldwide.

Very few of these people read, but now they can hear the transforming and powerful word of God. I never get tired of that.

6. AIDS Orphan Homes

The local church and hospital does a great job of identifying the poorest of the poor. Some children have lost their parents and live in stick / mud huts, while others may have one living parent or a neighborhood person who takes care of them.

Local workers do the foundation and the heavy stuff and we help out with painting, hammering and such.

In this case, the father died of AIDS and the mother and youngest child are probably HIV positive. She has resisted testing because of the stigma but it appears that they finally convinced her to get help. The anti-retrovirals have been very successful at preventing deaths and more orphans.

$2,000 builds a home to keep them safe and warm. It does amazing things for their self-worth and gives them a place to study once they are in school.

The hospital program and church stays engaged and follows up with them.

The purpose of the AIDS Orphans’ Project is to provide food, schooling, medical care and improved housing for AIDS orphans and to train their guardians in caring for these children. This project was established in response to the needs of the increasing numbers of AIDS orphans within the region that the hospital serves. Maua Methodist Hospital serves a district of 600,000 people as their only full service hospital. The AIDS orphan children are in desperate circumstances. The hospital is reaching out to them to share the Love of Jesus Christ by helping to care for their basic needs, and by giving hope for a better life.

7. Miscellaneous – travel and such.

8. World Vision sponsor child visit — These are from our visit with Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child since 1998, and his family.  I’m so glad that my wife finally got to meet them.  After all these years and multiple visits they are like family.

Dennis is roughly my oldest daughter’s age.  He is working on a 2 yr. journalism degree at college.  We are very proud of how hard he works.  He is a very humble and godly young man.  He knows his theology well (on my last visit he showed me how he got a 67 out of 70 on a test — not sure I could do that!).  I’ve been praying since he was 6 that God was use him in a big way and that prayer has been continually answered.

Our friends from World Vision, Peterson and Martin, hosted us for most of the day.  They do great work there and are very accountable with all they do.

9. Miscellaneous — shots from Vacation Bible School, the AIDS Orphan home dedication and more.

Digg This

Honduras

My youngest daughter and I just returned from a mission trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  I really appreciated the balance that the Hope for Honduras ministry and everyone on the mission team had in helping people physically and spiritually.  It is hard to hear the Gospel if you have starved to death, so the physical part is important.  But just meeting people’s physical needs and ignoring their eternal needs would be very short-sighted.

Unemployment is very high and many homes do not have a father.  The area was settled 10 years ago when floods from Hurricane Mitch forced people to flee to higher spots in the mountains.  Crime is a serious problem in Tegucigalpa, though we were kept safe throughout the week.

This was a great trip for any mission minded person.  You could be a first-timer or an experienced missionary and still get and give a lot.  Their web site has a brief but thorough overview of their ministry.  Check it out.

Some of the highlights:

Sponsor kids – Many of the team members had been there one or more times in the past and reconnected with children they sponsor.  It was a joy to see them together and encouraging to hear how much progress they had made.  You always want to ensure that any mission trips or organizations you support are actually making a difference, and this one does.

School – We helped with Bible / craft classes for younger kids twice a day.

Food distribution – Each day a few team members would distribute food to the children in the area.  For some it is their only meal of the day.

More food distribution – We took 100 lb. bags of rice and beans made 5 lb. packages of each and delivered them to every house in the area. 

The Gospel – The ministry helps spread the Gospel in all their activities.  We also passed out roughly 300 copies of the Gospel of John (or more accurately, the Gospel of Juan) with the bags of food.  I pray that many families read them and are transformed by God’s word.

House – We helped build a house for a family of 9.  The new house is a vast improvement for them but still about the size of your master bedroom.  The houses were somewhat similar to what I’ve helped build in Kenya, but we got to use power tools here.  That made it much easier, though I was amused when they handed me a rather sizable nail gun and expected me to use it.  Fortunately it has a safety feature on it.

The people – The kids were fun to interact with, although, as you might expect, they aren’t the most disciplined.  We’d stop working around 3:00 each day to spend time playing with them in the street.  The adults were very gracious.

As my daughter noted, when you look around the whole world these people are the “normal” ones relative to their living conditions.  We just think we’re normal.

Medical & dental clinic– We took a lot of supplies and bought medicine while we were there to restock the shelves.  This is an important outreach for the mission.

Spanish – My daughter taught me a little Spanish before we left and I picked up some more words there.  It is always fun to use a bit of the local language.  She was a huge help in translating for other members of the team, especially when talking to the families of the children they sponsored. 

Devotions – The team had a morning devotional and evening sharing time to discuss the events of the day and how we saw God working.  There was a heavy emphasis on the spiritual aspect of the whole enterprise, which I really appreciated.

Classes for women – They have a weekly Bible study / craft time for women in the area.  I imagine that is one of the highlights of their week, where they can do things they never got to do as kids and can take a break from their normal duties and learn about God and be encouraged.

The airport– We were warned that the landing is tricky in Honduras, but I just assumed that meant we’d get Continental’s best and brightest pilots.  Hey, that’s what prayer partners are for!

Accommodations – I anticipate roughing it a bit on mission trips, but we stayed at a very nice and very safe hotel.  Nice rooms, good food, beautiful rooftop for devotionals and meetings and even a TV in the room so we could watch the Olympics at night.

The teamFaithbridge United Methodist Church sponsored the trip, though several of us attend other churches.  The team members had a variety of backgrounds and were a delight to serve with.  I never get tired of hanging out with people who love the Lord and are committed to his word and to serving in his name.  Our leader, Lesa, was terrific and displayed an amazing balance of organizational skills, spiritual focus and passion. 

Prayer – We prayed a lot for the people and I’m sure we’ll keep doing so. 

Going with my daughter – It was literally a dream come true to do a mission trip with my youngest daughter (The original plan was to go to Kenya with my oldest daughter, but that fell through due to the political instability in place during the planning stages.  Hopefully that will play out next year.).  But this trip fell in our laps with perfect timing and she was excited to go.  She did a great job all week regardless of the task.  I couldn’t be more proud and I could thank God 24×7 for the next month and that wouldn’t be enough.

I’m planning to go back to Honduras sometime but I need to help my wife go on a trip there first.  She’s been a great sport in holding down the fort while I’ve gone on these trips.  The timing is always a challenge, though.

God is so good.  Mission trips are a joy.

Pros and cons of short term mission trips

The Washington Post had an interesting piece titled Teen missions being retooled.  Here are some snippets. 

WASHINGTON — Not long ago, the families of Fairfax (Va.) Presbyterian Church spent thousands of dollars to fly their teens to Mexico for eight days of doing good. They helped build homes and refurbish churches as part of an army of more than 1 million mostly Christians who annually go on short-term international mission trips to work and evangelize in poverty-stricken lands.

Yet even as those trips have increased in popularity, they have come under increased scrutiny. A growing body of research questions the value of the trips abroad, which are supposed to bring hope and Christianity to the needy of the world, while offering American participants an opportunity to work in disadvantaged communities, develop relationships and charge up their faith.

Critics scornfully call such trips “religious tourism” undertaken by “vacationaries.” Some blunders include a wall built on the children’s soccer field at an orphanage in Brazil that had to be torn down after the visitors left. In Mexico, a church was painted six times during one summer by six different groups. In Ecuador, a church was built but never used because the community said it was not needed.

I don’t see how people serving on mission trips on their vacations is a bad thing.  Of course, non-value added activities like re-painting the same thing or building inadequate or unnecessary structures is ridiculous.  But those things can be prevented with good planning.

I heard of parts of Mexico referred to as the “Methodist ruins” because many churches started projects and didn’t follow through.  Just because you are doing a good deed doesn’t mean you don’t need wisdom, discernment, superior planning and organization.

The church is sending out smaller teams of experts to work on projects with partner churches. For example, it is sending information technology professionals who are fluent in Spanish to a church in the Dominican Republic to train members in computer skills so they can get better jobs, MacDonald said.

Despite the concerns with trips abroad, their popularity is soaring. Some groups go as far away as China, Thailand and Russia. From a few hundred in the 1960s, the trips have proliferated in recent years. A Princeton University study found that 1.6 million people took short-term mission trips — an average of eight days — in 2005. Estimates of the money spent on these trips is upward of $2.4 billion a year. Vacation destinations are especially popular: Recent research has found that the Bahamas receives one short-term missionary for every 15 residents.

At the same time, the number of long-term American missionaries, who go abroad from several years to a lifetime, has fallen, according to a Wheaton College study done last year.

The short-term mission trip is a “huge phenomenon that seems to be gaining in momentum rather than waning,” said David Livermore, executive director of the Global Learning Center at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, who studies the trend.

Participants care for orphans, hold Bible classes, evangelize, paint homes and churches and help AIDS patients, among other tasks.

But research has found that the trips tend to have few long-term effects on the local people or on the mission travelers. Some projects take away work from local people, are unnecessary and sometimes dangerous.

I wonder what groups they researched.  That has not been my experience.   Then again, we typically send teams to the same places over and over so that relationships are built and we can be sure we are making a difference.

“I really don’t think that most people are trying to be ugly Americans,” said Glenn Schwartz, executive director of World Mission Associates and author of When Charity Destroys Dignity. “But they’re misinformed and don’t realize how their good intentions can go awry.”

Mission groups also often bring their own experts and ignore local authorities on the ground.

In Monrovia, Liberia, three years ago, tragedy occurred when visitors built a school to their standards instead of Liberian standards. During the monsoon season, the building collapsed, killing two children, Livermore said.

Understanding the local customs and needs is crucial.  We always defer to local building practices. 

Critics also question the expense involved in sending people long distances. Short-term missionaries pay $1,000 each, or far more, in plane fare and other expenses to get to remote destinations.

A 2006 study in Honduras found that short-term mission groups spent an average of $30,000 on their trips to build one home that a local group could construct for $2,000.

“To spend $30,000 to paint a church or build a house that costs $2,000 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Kurt Ver Beek, a professor of sociology at Calvin College who conducted the research.

I think that misses the point.  Mission trips aren’t just about the physical property being built or repaired.  They are about relationships with the people, helping them in ways that are meaningful and lasting, sharing the Gospel and transforming the lives of those who go.  It changes how you view the world. 

And practically speaking, I’ve found that people who go on short term mission trips write more and bigger checks to help these areas, and they encourage others to do the same.  Who better to tell people of the needs than those who have been there?

All of the objections brought up in the article could be dealt with by applying more wisdom and planning.

Kenya update

kenya-2007-neil-018-8x10.jpgI am very happy to hear that the violence in Kenya has calmed down.  Here is an update from one of our primary contacts there:

Many thanks to our Lord God almighty! We have peace at last. President Kibaki and ODM leader agreed to share power and the agreement was signed in the presence of the international media and diplomats. We shall have an Executive prime minister, and two deputy prime ministers, and the ministers shall be shared 50/50.

To us this arrangement is ok as long as  we have peace in the country and the displaced peaople go back to their homes. The parliament will open next week  thursday to ratify the agreements. the two parties will work together the modalities to overhaul the current constitution in 12 months,so that it allow the position of the prime minister and others changes . The mediators are now discussing the dispute on land and resource allocation, this may take long to resolve.

Problems remain, however, as ~600,000 people are still displaced.  They need donations now more than ever.

On a personal but much smaller level, I am very disappointed that we won’t be going on a mission trip to Kenya this year.  This one was going to be extra-special because my oldest daughter was going to go with me.  There were just too many concerns to be able to make travel commitments at this time.  Oh well, something will come up!

I really feel for all the people who rely on tourism for a living, such as John who sells us carved animals and woven baskets.  I’ll also miss seeing Dennis, our World Vision sponsor child.