COVID has forced churches and organizations to put a halt on sending more than 1.6 million participants from the U.S. on short-term mission trips. You and your church may be wondering what you will be doing this year to serve and learn with God’s people around the world. For some, you might not even be thinking about short-term mission trips because you are just trying to figure out how to continue doing church in a pandemic! For others, it’s difficult to plan anything when you are not sure what this year and the years ahead will bring; or maybe you have a plan in hand, but you’ll just wait and see. Through a conversation with a few mission leaders in the Pittsburgh area, the following are some of the ideas that seems helpful to consider with your congregation this year.
Shift Focus to Local Partners
The Rev. Todd Leach of Shadyside Presbyterian Church reports that their church is focusing on local partners, especially on how to journey alongside them as they work together toward justice-oriented goals. Reaching out to your local ministry partners and seeing how you can offer your time and resources during this difficult period could be of great help to them.
Plan for a Domestic Trip
Plan for a domestic trip to an area or location that you already have a connection with or where you would be most needed during this time. Rev. Leach said that Shadyside is going ahead with planning their trip to North Carolina but admits that they might not end up going—”we’d rather prepare and not go, as opposed to not prepare and miss an opportunity,” he explained.
Educate about Mission
Melody Phelps of Eastminster Presbyterian Church, who recently worked with Students International, suggests that during this time it’s very important for churches to focus on educating and teaching people more about mission. We can get so caught up in the logistics of organizing these trips that we forget to teach about their purpose and how our people can effectively participate and bring back the learning to apply it in our everyday lives.
Connect and Pray for One Another
Encourage previous trip participants to connect with and check in with friends they met and know from previous trips. This is a great way for them to learn, support, and pray for one another from a distance. Keea Dorsey of Eastminster Presbyterian Church shared how special it was for the congregants to be able to connect through a joint New Year’s Eve worship service with a sister church in Egypt. People were able to meet and pray for each another. Dorsey added, “In this year, it’s important for churches to organize routine days of prayer where people can connect with one another to pray for specific individuals or countries each week or month.”
Mix Service and Learning
One great way to engage your congregation this year is by creating opportunities for a mixture of both service and learning within your local communities. Here is one example of what this can look like, from Broad Street Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio: Rethinking Summer Mission Activity: The Mission Un-Trip.
S. Balajiedlang Khyllep is the associate director of the Seminary’s World Mission Initiative. Bala grew up in Northeast India. He belongs to a Khasi people group, which is an indigenous group that was evangelized by the Welsh Presbyterian missionaries back in the 1840s. He attended Shillong College, India, for his bachelor of science; Serampore College, India, for his bachelor of divinity (equivalent to M.Div.); and Princeton Theological Seminary for his master of theology. Prior to joining WMI, Bala co-pastored a church along with his wife in Britton, S.D. Bala enjoys working with people from different cultures and he is excited for the opportunity to engage churches in the area and students at PTS in global and cross-cultural mission.