Short-Term Mission = Short-Term Effectiveness?

I recently received this STM team report from a colleague:

Three ladies on our last trip to Africa made me seriously evaluate my goals for STM. Last August I went with 12 people on a STM to Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast of South Africa (the poorest of the poor in S.A.). The goal was to renovate a building in a remote village to be used as a church. We did it, and it was cool participating in the Xhosa Christian celebration service. However, the real discipleship was not planned or expected...but had long lasting effects....all from the discipling faith of 3 ladies.

After a week in the Wild Coast it was clear that a lot of tribes people were under oppression from the owner of the local shabeen (mud-hut bar). He had money and power. Even though they appreciated our STM project and our long-term 3 year eco-tourism project, it seemed that they would not engage with us without the consent of the bar owner. We heard rumours that this man was an evil man. One morning, during prayers, three ladies said "lets visit the shabeen and it's owner, one of us will distract him by asking for a tour, and the rest of us will sprinkle anointing oil in every room, on all furniture, and pray for the oppression to be removed".

I thought these ladies were "whacked out". Plus, our purpose was to fix the church, not to get involved with some questionable character. Four weeks after we returned we received the attached news article describing that the Shabeen owner had been arrested. This was amazing since there are no police in that area. Our contact in Coffee Bay said that the people were so moved "dashed" by the faith of these three ladies that they finally refused the bribes from the bar owner and told the police about not only 50 young girls that were raped, but also about the people the bar owner had murdered.

One of the 3 ladies sold her counselling practice in Virginia and moved over to Coffee Bay in January to help the AIDS orphans. She got all 12 of us to come up with $200 each to help one 13-year old AIDS orphan, Mbumba, to attend a small boarding school in Coffee Bay. I still remember Mbumba crying at the church celebration saying, through a translator, "how can I believe in a God that let my parents die". It's going to be a long-haul relationship with Mbumba before he's ready to talk about God and the good news about Jesus, but it's been a year and it's starting to happening. Pouring all this money and attention into one 13-year old boy seems not to be the thing that SMT supporters want to hear, but it's what Jesus did, pour his life into 12....who poured their lives into 72....who poured their lives into 3000.....and now millions. The same thing can happen with Mbumba (I had to attach his was so weird...he wanted his picture taken...and now it haunts me every time I see it).

I learned a lot....fixing a church can seem like a poor excuse for a STM....I'm just glad that these 3 ladies where open to the Holy Spirit.

Matt: It's always a good thing to be able to pick some fruit off the tree of your trip a year after you came home. This story makes me want to ensure I'm encouraging people to remain open for those God-arranged appointments with others, and to prepare people to be spiritually useful!

Here's the article about the Shabeen owner, and a picture of Mbumba.

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