Questions to ask before you go on a missions trip.

Update 2/13/19: Now with now Envision Atlanta answers these questions.

When we do missions (and missions trips) how do we measure the results?  By the number of participants?  Did we have fun?  Did we learn something?  Did we make a friend?  These aren’t bad questions, but are there better questions?  I would like to suggest that asking better questions will help us do missions better.  The questions below come from Pete Brokopp of Envision Atlanta. Pete has a masters degree in missiology and being born on the mission field he has a lifetime of experience.

1: Is it part of a master plan?  –  Showing up somewhere and working on a project and then leaving isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it might be a waste of your time and the resources that you trip paid for.  I heard a story of a man who showed up in an village and noticed the soil was fertile but the locals did zero farming.  He was saddened because they were missing a great opportunity to feed themselves well.  He started teaching them to farm and planted a large garden.  He continued the work despite the lack of participation from the locals.  He soon realized why they didn’t farm there.  As the crops started to grow and produce fruit the hippos came out of the river and ate or trampled everything.  He thought he had seen an opportunity but never took they time to ask why they didn’t farm.  He never asked how his vision fit into what was happening in their world.

At Envision Atlanta our mission drives everything we do. If it doesn’t fit into our ten-year vision you won’t be doing it when you come.  This means that every team, every intern, and every volunteer is helping us advance what we think is important.

2: Is there local ownership? – Reread the story above if this one doesn’t feel obvious.  If there isn’t local ownership the project will fail as soon as the people completing it step away. This requires the missionaries on the ground to be in active participation with the locals.

One of our greatest joys is seeing the people we are working with and ministering to take over what we have started. In our journey to plant 1000 house churches we know we must have locals leading them. For this reason, our house churches meet in their homes, not in ours.

3: Does it create dependency or discipleship?  – Some friends of mine work with an organization that does international teaching on prayer.  They send people to do the initial teaching, but the goal is that the local population will grab the vision and begin teaching the information themselves.  This allows resources and people to be sent to more places and allows for growth and independence.

Pete is constantly telling our team that we should be working ourselves out of a job. Who are you training to take over for you? Creating dependency means that when you leave, so does the vision. Creating discipleship means that there is always new leadership ready to step in and allow the vision to grow and prosper.

4: What is the long term impact? – Bible translators have to deal with this a lot in countries that have common languages, trade languages, and local languages.  Of the many languages to pick from, what one do you pick to translate the Bible into?  You would pick the language that reached the most people right?  Well what if that language was readable but implied a lesser value to the people?  What if you were able to provide a document that preserved a dying language?  Or took a language that was only oral and for the first time created a written alphabet for it?

The local high school in one of the lowest rated in the state. This is due to the nature of the area we are in, not because of teachers. The high school has over 100 languages spoken and people from all over the world that attend it. As you might guess, this leads to lower test scores as students are trying to learn biology and English at the same time. Our part in this has been to create a homework help program in one of the apartment complexes. What we want to see is rising scores and a school transformed because people who love Jesus have loved the people he loves also.

5: What is the felt need of the people you are serving? – Reaching the felt need is the fastest way to someone’s heart and the fastest way to earn their trust.  When Envision went into Burkina Faso they asked what the felt need was and it was water.  The Envision team started raising money for wells and brought water to over 250,000 people.  “They came for water to drink and walked away with living water,” says Pete Brokopp who was in charge of the project.  Without drilling the wells the team’s ability to impact the people would have been much more limited.

The felt needs in our area are vast and include English classes, help with homework, jobs, and perhaps the largest is friendship with an American. To meet these needs we offer in-home English classes, we are opening homework help centers, and we are creating businesses that will employ locals. To address the need for American friendship we are active and present where we work and play, not needing for those we reach encounter to look or sound like us.

6: Is everyone else doing it?  – Are you late to the game and creating something that is already being done over and over?  Maybe it’s time to look for a new strategy for reaching out and come up with something that no one else is doing.  This is a business principle.  If you want to reach more people with your program or project try something new and be the first at the table and not be the last.

There are many people, doing many good things in our area of ministry. We know we cannot do everything, nor should we do everything. We believe heavily in partnership. We work with groups who are doctors and let them do the medical treatments and they let us do the church planting. This allows higher quality work to be done by all and better service for those we are encountering.

Brian and his wife Anna serve in the metro Atlanta area, home to people from more than 756 different people groups. They work with refugees and urban poor with Envision Atlanta. Brian has helped Envision Atlanta start two businesses, a window cleaning company, and a mobile thrift store. One of the goals of each business is to provide job training and livable wages to its workers. Brian and Anna are required to raise their own support to pay their salary. You can give here. Search for Brian and Anna Baldwin where it says, “type name of worker or project”. Envision is part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and your gifts are all tax deductible. Every gift is valuable for advancing the work being done. You can also sign up for Brian and Anna’s newsletter here (outside link FYI).

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