Monthly Archives: May 2009

Seven Principles for Highly Effective Short-Term Missions

Interesting article I found at Desiring God Ministries from Operation Mobilisation:

Seven Principles for Highly Effective Short-Term Missions

Mike Stachura

Everyone’s doin’ it!  Short-term missions, that is.  There seems to be an unprecedented enthusiasm for short-term mission trips in all shapes and sizes.  And therein lies a problem.  With all forms of trips, ministries, and experiences now falling under the title “short-term missions,” it’s getting very difficult to determine what is short-term missions.

Short-termers are getting a lot of “hard press” these days.  Terms like “glitz and blitz,” “hype,” “run and gun” are now used to describe many of the current efforts, especially to reach the former Soviet Union and East Central Europe.  Some see short-termers as actually counterproductive to the goal of world evangelization.  What is most needed, however, is clear recognition of the difference between serious short-term programs and glorified overseas sightseeing trips.

What does make an effective short-term missions effort?  Based on my experience in Operation Mobilization, let me suggest seven principles for highly effective short-term missions, which I believe embody many features of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

1. Clear and Prayerful Strategies.  Many good models exist for short-term ministry.  Examples include Scripture and Christian literature distribution and assistance in the construction of church, medical, and educational facilities.  Short-term efforts that are prayerfully and carefully thought through, with clear communication beforehand to national church leaders and/or longer-term missionaries, serve as powerful sources for new evangelistic initiatives, the encouragement of local believers, and the equipping of national leaders.  Regular group intercessory prayer before going to the field helps discern God’s strategy, making the teams better able to adapt as He directs.

Prayer undergirded the ten-person team which headed toward Novosibirsk, Siberia, for a summer of outreach in 1991.  Eighty visas had been applied for, but only ten were approved.  The team prayed for and recruited bilingual translators from the local university, only one of whom was a Christian.  At the end of the summer, only one of the translators was not a Christian.  Today, OM, in partnership with the Navigators, ministers together with more than 50 national believers in a new fellowship in Novosibirsk.

2. Leaders of Character and Competence.  Nothing is more critical to the success of a short-term missions team effort than having a leader of mature, godly character who has the gifts, abilities, and experience to guide a cross-cultural team.  George Verwer puts it this way:  “We must have people who are disciplined.  It’s going to be rough.  It’s going to be tough.  Their hearts are going to be broken.  We need people who are spiritual fighters….We can’t really do much with gospel wimps on the mission field” (Verwer:  1994).

3. A Learner’s Attitude.  From the very beginning, all short-termers must be committed to learning as much as possible (before going!) of the language, culture, history, church, and mission situation in the city or country they’re visiting.  Short-term missions involves an ongoing commitment to deepen one’s spiritual life and to learn the content of the gospel to be communicated in the context of the culture.  It means learning from national believers and more experienced missionaries.  It means avoiding the posture of “knowing what needs to be done.”  It means more listening and less talking.

There are numerous excellent resources available to any church, group, or individual who’s contemplating going on a short-term mission team.  (Please check the “Recommended Reading” at the end of this article.)  There are also excellent organizations with a long track record of practical steps on how to prepare for, go, and return with lasting results from mission trips.  Such groups are eager to assist and offer practical training for those going to the field.

4. A Servant’s Spirit.  Nothing is more damaging to cross-cultural missions, short-term or long-term, than a patronizing, paternalistic attitude.  Paul came determined not to present himself, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  As for Paul, he wanted to be known as Christ’s bondservant (“doulos”).  A servant’s spirit starts in the home church or group with a willingness to do whatever is asked.  It is reflected in the team life where all members are willing to take their share of the workload.  It means esteeming others, particularly national Christian workers, as better than ourselves.

5. Partnership.  Short-term efforts generally fail when they are not vitally linked with the efforts of a national church or longer-term mission.  Short-term work should be a great complement and supplement, not substitute, to existing long-term work.  National church leaders often ask for short-term teams to help them out.  It is precisely this type of strategy that has worked so effectively for the ships Logos II and Doulos, for our teams in Russia and East Central Europe, and especially for our largest land-based work in India (McQuilkin:  1994).  The focus is on building a “both-and” approach that uses both the efforts of short-term mission and long-term follow-up.

The Novosibirsk outreach continues because of the commitment by both the Navigators and OM to see a self-propagating, mature, discipled fellowship established in Siberia.  Partnership in short-term efforts has led to a deeper link on a long-term basis.

6. A Commitment to Ongoing Ministry.  “Been there; done that” is not an acceptable philosophy for short-term missions.  While vision trips can stimulate genuine enthusiasm, lead to new ministry opportunities, and even encourage local believers, a real danger exists of creating false expectations, particularly in the host culture.  Launching a short-term missions team means accepting responsibilities either to keep on sending teams as needed or ensuring that a proper foundation is laid for leaving the work in the hands of competent national Christians.

In Durres, Albania, an OM short-term team of three entered in 1991 with a commitment to learn the language and culture, to start three Bible-study groups, and to see a fellowship of believers commence.  Within a year, they were well into the language, had started 12 groups (with several national Albanians helping to lead), and worked with a partnership of a dozen or so agencies in a large evangelistic campaign in the city stadium, and were involved in two new fellowships resulting from that larger effort.  Today, more than 120 national believers in Durres meet regularly for worship and Bible study, and are planning short-term evangelistic outreaches to remote mountain villages.

A local church near Atlanta has sent over one-third of its members into the former nation of Yugoslavia under the theme, “On the Road to Sarajevo.”  While they have not yet established a permanent church-planting effort in Sarajevo, the Lord has led them to be involved in relief efforts, refugee ministries, evangelism to youth and the elderly, and a host of dynamic opportunities.

7. Christ-Honoring Communication of Results.  Perhaps it’s a Western cultural penchant for numbers, plans, and quick results.  Or, perhaps it’s an untamed ego which takes more credit for spiritual harvest than is merited.  Whatever the cause, nothing is more dishonoring to Christian missions than exaggeration and self-congratulation over perceived results of short-term ministry.  Short-term reporting must repent of “hype.”  To start with, realistic expectations of goals for a short-term team should be stressed.  Groups must report real results that have been checked out carefully, with integrity and humility uppermost in mind.  Short-termers often are painfully aware of their own inadequacies.  When shortcomings are honestly admitted they help underscore the truth that humility still is a powerful message in a world waiting to hear the Good News. 

Mike Stachura is USA Director of Operation Mobilization, Tyrone, GA.  OM has trained 85,000 Christians since 1957.  Currently it has ministry bases in more than 70 nations with 2,400 missionaries, 40 percent of whom are career workers.

This article has been used with permission from the East-West Church & Ministry Report published through Samford University & Beeson School of Divinity in Birmingham, Alabama.  For more go to:



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Smile Centre Update 19/05/09

Well, spring is officially here and that means it’s almost too hot for me to move!  The temperature so far has been regularly 25-30 degrees here in May…………….

Friends from Scotland

Our friends Judith and Averil came out to visit us this month.  Judith was here for 5 days and Averil was here for 2 weeks.  They brought with them a surprise stash of goodies for us as well as my collection of Amazon packages which get delivered to Conor’s.  Both were well received and I think I had all the comics read (6 months’ worth of various titles) by day 2 of their visit 😉

Averil & JudithAngela, Judith & Averil in Prizren

It was great to have the girls here.  They got to meet some of our new friends and see some of the work which we do here as well as some of our favourite spots in Kosova.  We took them to Prizren to the old fortress and up Qabrati hill here in Gjakova.  Our personal favourite has to be Mirushe waterfalls, about 25 mins outside of Gjakova, which is an excellent walk in the country as well as a fun climb along the various tiers of the waterfall.

Visit to German KFOR hospital

While in Prizren, Ang and I went to the military hospital at the German KFOR NATO base as Ang has not been sleeping well for the past couple of months and her energy levels have been affected by this.  They took some blood tests and thankfully there is no sign of anaemia (no need for the endoscope!), but we are awaiting the test results for her thyroid.  Being on a German base, where many of the soldiers spoke German only, was quite entertaining, but they were all very nice and the treatment is of a very high standard.

Kids’ club

Angela writing this bit: Last week, Averil and I assisted with a kids’ club in a village not far from Gjakova, where a local pastor and his team have been working for a few months.  In the past, the club has been held in the house of the only believer in this Muslim village, but this week as more than 60 children had come, we held the club outside.  We sang songs with actions, and played games with the kids, after one of the youth workers told a story about Jesus.  Unfortunately, a Muslim man from the village got upset that we were holding this club, and called the police.  Two officers arrived, and confiscated our i.d. cards, stating that our work was illegal…

Village Kids Club

Fortunately however, we have a contact in the police who I was able to call – after spending some time with him shortly after we arrived last year, he gave us his personal mobile number and said we could call him, day or night, if we ever have any problems!  He made a phone call to the village police chief to explain who we are and that the work we do is good.  We had to drive to the local police station to collect our i.d., and as we were approaching, the storms clouds drew in and we drove through the heaviest rain I’d ever seen, as well as loud rolls of thunder and bright flashes of lightning.  In the police station, we were able to show our NGO paperwork, and explain that we did have permission from the families to be in the village, and the police were very understanding.  In other countries, my experience/perception is that being a foreigner in these circumstances is not helpful, but in Kosova people have a great respect for those who have come here to help, and I was happy to be able to talk a little to them.  I explained in their language that we wanted to do things the right way, that we are here to help and not to cause problems for them.  They returned our paperwork with a warning to be careful in that village, but thanking us for the work that we do.  On the drive home, the storm had passed over and there in the sky was a beautiful rainbow – God’s promise for His people.

Conferences at the Centre

 We’ve had 2 conferences at the centre this month.  The first was a 6-day residential conference run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF).  The local Kosovar churches were invited to send representatives who wished to receive further training in children’s work.  It was a great week to have friends (old and new) from the local churches here in the Centre and while they received this training. 

 STS ConferenceConference Lunch

The second was a non-residential conference organised by our friends at Samaritans Purse for the local Gjakovar churches.  It was a 3-day course of teaching by representatives of Simply The Story (STS).  This conference was for helping everyday Christians to share stories from the Bible that would be inclusive to people who were non-literate (ie. not just people who can’t read, but people who don’t retain much information through written words only – usually about 60-70% of any given population). 


Both conferences were fun for everyone despite involving a lot of hard work and pushing people outside of their comfort zones.  We are always pleased to have conferences at the Centre because it means we can employ two local ladies as cooks to cater for our guests.  These ladies are normally out of work so we are pleased to be able to offer them (and any Kosovar) work when we can.

Group Shot outside the Smile Centre

Blind Association & Smile Sponsored Women

As well as continuing to visit our Smile sponsored women in their own homes, we were able to support the Blind Association of Gjakova this month with some humanitarian aid in the form of clothes and toiletries for 32 of their poorest families.  We hope to continue building this relationship with them with our teams in the summer.

Aid to the Blind Association of GjakovaSmile Sponsored Widows from local village

As we won’t be organising the teams this summer (this will be organised from the UK), we will be focusing on three main areas which you can join us in praying for Christ’s guidance and wisdom for us:

1)      Marketing the Smile Centre to the Balkan churches

2)      Continuing and developing the Smile’s Sponsored Women’s Projects

3)      Creating  and developing new Centre-based projects

Please also pray for our energy levels, as the heat affects us both (it’s only going to get hotter!), and also for a resolution to Ang’s disturbed sleep.  And for a pony.




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Newsletter May 09

Paul & Angela Maxfield

Paul & Angela Maxfield

Marriage and Kosova – One year In…..

Hard as it is to believe, it’s been nearly a year since Angela and I got married and moved out here from Scotland to Gjakova, Kosova.  The time has flown by.  It really does seem like it was only last week we were saying our vows, packing our bags, and saying our goodbyes.  During that time, we’ve had many ups and downs, made new friends, and frequently found ourselves out of our depth.  We thank Christ for those of you who have kept us in your prayers during this last year (despite our lack of contact!)

The Work

So what have we actually been up to?  Well, the reason this is our second prayer letter in 12 months is because of our busyness, so I’ll just give you the highlights:

  • The Smile Centre:

Having dropped in at the deep end last year, the biggest challenges to the running of the Centre included dealing with the plumbing and the power cuts. We now have enough hot water for everybody and with the batteries and inverter in place, we now have power even during power cuts (a light in every room, plug sockets, and internet!).  We’ve also managed to organise the aid in such away that the Centre is more like a residential conference facility which stores aid and less like a storehouse with beds.  

New Games Room In Use

New Games room Ball Pit
 We’ve also added a games room which many groups have had the pleasure of using while staying at the Centre. 
  • Gappers:

smile-angela-backup-201We’ve had the pleasure of hosting 2 incredible Gap year students, Pete Gardiner and Jess Fok, for 7 and 6 months, respectively.  These guys were a welcome addition to the team and served Christ faithfully with a number of our partner churches and NGO’s here in Gjakova.

  • Teams & Shoeboxes:

We’ve been joined by teams of all ages of short term missionaries from Britain who have taken part in the ministries and work of the churches here in Gjakova.  We’ve delivered Christmas shoe boxes of gifts to schools, kindergartens, churches, and villages around Kosova, Albania, and Macedonia – but don’t get us started on those border crossings! 


  • smile-angela-backup-143Aid arrival, sorting, distribution:

The biggest challenge to Smile’s humanitarian aid work is the culture of “aid dumping” on – and the “aid dependency/expectation” of – some of the Kosovar people.  We received a 40 tonne lorry full of aid in December and, thanks to amazing volunteers from the local churches, have spent the winter months sorting the aid in the Centre, which will enable us to do targeted distribution so that the aid gets to those who need it most.

  • Easter Week and Sponsored Widow’s Days:
Volunteers for the Life4Kosova Project

Volunteers for the Life4Kosova Project

During Easter, most of the Kosovar churches participated in a week long programme here in Gjakova.  We cleared roads of rubbish, gave blood, taught in schools, hosted

Teaching Ceilidh Dancin'

Teaching Ceilidh Dancin'

 dinner for and distributed aid to local Kosovar associations for the blind and prisoners of war (Angela and I even tried to teach some of them to Ceilidh!).  The week culminated at the local Cultural Palace (a theatre) where we had invited those we met during the week to join us for an Easter service held by some of the Gjakovar churches. 

Smile Sponsored Widows Day

Smile Sponsored Widows Day

We have also been able to host day events at the Centre for women sponsored by Smile’s Widow Sponsorship programme.  We thank Christ for those of you who regularly give so that we can provide these women and their families with aid and a day of fun and fellowship at the Centre.

  • New friends:

During our year here in Gjakova, we have been supported by some really great friends within the local Christian population around Kosova, and been encouraged through seeing Christ at work within the Kosovars and Internationals – yes, even the English 😉

  • Each other:

In true complementary fashion, neither of us could have done this job without the other.  We are thankful to Christ for having each other to lean on.  It hasn’t always been easy, but when one of us has been down, the other has always been there to encourage and pick up the slack.  This is definitely a 2-person job (at least!).

What next? Things to pray for wisdom about:

  • We will continue to visit the women sponsored by Smile’s Widow Sponsorship programme in their own homes, both to get to know them and their families and to determine how best to serve them in Christ;
    Visiting a sponsored widow

    Visiting a sponsored widow




  • Usage of the Smile Centre has increased during our time here, but we would love to see the facilities used to their fullest potential;
  • The global financial crisis is hitting charities hard, and no-one is immune. Please pray for Christ’s provision and guidance for the distribution of more aid as we identify the physical and spiritual needs around us;
  • As we plan for the summer teams’ activities, please pray that Christ will be guiding the right people to come and serve in Kosova – there’s still time to come!
  • Angela and I will be returning to sunny Scotland on 5-15th June to go round churches to raise awareness and support for Smile’s work here in Kosova.  After this “Scottish Roadshow”, we’ll have 2 weeks off to catch up with friends and family and recharge before heading back to Kosova.

Personal Prayer Points

  • Christ would continue to build our relationships and deepen our fellowship with each other, and our new friends in Kosova;
  • That the churches in Kosova (& GJakova, our town) would grow in greater unity in Christ, with each other and witnessing to the culture;
  • For Smile International (and other charities) for Christ’s provision of resources to meet the increasing needs of the people of this beautiful country, as the financial crisis affects donations from the UK.

We thank you for your continued prayerful support.  You can follow our work on Facebook or at our blog,; and we would also ask you to consider supporting our work here in Kosova financially, please visit the website for details on how to give or come out and join us.


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