It was a globe-trotting summer for 2022 PTS Valentour Scholar Hannah Ostlund, who traversed to Peru, Malawi, and the U.S./Mexico border over 10 weeks. During her journeys, she studied the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on short-term missions and what it means for the future of God’s mission in our world. Here are a few excerpts and photos from Hannah’s travel blog, Travel With Hannah.
“The concept of remaining connected after the trip occurs has been something many in the mission field of research have been exploring for a while. As I think about the pandemic’s impact on our world in general, I’ve been chewing on what the expansion of virtual opportunities could mean for STMs and the building of long-term relationships. While the increased virtual opportunities sound like they could be a great improvement, it fails to take into account the churches, communities, and individuals that do not have access to the internet. I don’t say this to argue against using virtual opportunities as a way to connect, but as a reminder of the importance of understanding the realities of the communities we work alongside.”
“While the pandemic has had a great impact on Mulanje Mission Hospital, there has been a positive development in the partnership relationship with [the] Pittsburgh Presbytery. As the pandemic impacted travel, these groups were able to connect via Zoom more regularly to discuss programming, fundraising, and impact. The head doctor of the hospital voiced how this addition to their practices allows them to expand their connection beyond the occasional visit to something more long-term.”
“When the pandemic caused the visitation of groups to cease, Frontera de Cristo began thinking, ‘If groups can’t come to us, we’ll go to them.’ Out of this thinking grew ‘Cafe y Conversation,’ which is a Zoom meeting that occurs every two months. In these meetings they uplift a specific topic—maybe it’s the issue of children not being able to read at 8-10 years old, or the impact of the pandemic on volunteers. The goal of these conversations is to invite the community of FDC together to continue the work despite distance and to discuss ways forward as an organization.”
Hannah admits to being overwhelmed by all the information she gathered. “What I do know,” she says, “is that mission is alive and well in God’s kingdom, even if it looks a little different since the pandemic started.”
This fall, Hannah is completing an independent study with Dr. Hunter Farrell to revise and adapt a short-term mission guidebook she created as an undergraduate at Salem College. She will also co-lead a workshop at the Oct. 7-8 Missional Leadership Conference, hosted by PTS’s World Mission Initiative.
The Valentour World Travel Fellowship was established in 1999 by Louis F. Valentour, a Pittsburgh architect and world traveler wishing to support global learning of students at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Learn more about this fellowship and additional Opportunities for Mission Leader Formation at PTS.