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Short-term anxiety

"Short-term anxiety" Continued...

Issue: "Ethiopia's new flower," May 31, 2008

Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), an organization with 52 aircraft serving missions agencies and nonprofit groups in remote areas, recently announced that the scarcity and expense of aviation fuel had grounded some of its flights. More than 150 airstrips are without service, according to MAF president John Boyd.

JAARS and MAF are both working to switch their fleets to aircraft using jet fuel, which costs about $3.50 a gallon. Both groups are raising funds to purchase new aircraft-like the newly designed Kodiak (see "Pilot project," June 9, 2007)-but say the projects will take considerable time and money.

While a sagging economy and rising prices are draining some long-term missionaries, they aren't deterring large numbers of short-term workers so far. Keith Bubalo, who directs global missions projects for Campus Crusade for Christ International, said: "I haven't heard one story of anyone not going because of increased prices."

Tony Arnold, spokesman for Campus Crusade, told WORLD that 1,321 workers are signed up for international summer projects this year and says that number is on par with participation levels for the last couple of years. Norvelle of IMB says she hasn't heard of drops in short-term participation either, and she says thousands of Baptists will go on short-term trips this year.

But for short-term workers looking to save costs, there are options: Thousands will work on domestic projects this summer. Arnold says 2,175 are signed up for stateside projects for Campus Crusade. Thousands more with dozens of other groups will work in areas like the still-recovering Gulf Coast, languishing Indian reservations, and needy urban areas.

John Bailey directs World Changers, a home missions project for the SBC. He says youth groups will travel to 95 projects in about 85 cities this summer to work on rehabilitating substandard housing. The organization works closely with community development organizations in each city to identify needy homeowners. "We don't try to reinvent the wheel," says Bailey. "We look to partner with cities."

Youth directors choose cities and projects for their groups, and most stay within a few hours of home, says Bailey: "It's a major decision by the churches willing to load up a van and pay $4.50 for diesel gas." (Some youth directors could save even more money and invest in local ministry by choosing projects in their own town or metro area.)

World Changers hasn't increased the participation fee for summer projects, though the cost of executing projects has gone up. "I wouldn't call it a crisis for us, but it is very financially tight," says Bailey. "We're running a tight ship."

As missions organizations and long-term missionaries tighten their belts, it's important for short-term workers to focus on how they can be most useful for the short periods of time they serve on fields. Norvelle of IMB offers this advice: "Go as a learner rather than a knower." That's particularly helpful when working with indigenous Christians in other cultures, she says: "What works here in America often doesn't work in a different culture."

Norvelle offers another piece of simple advice for serving well: "Go willing to do whatever needs to be done."

Campus Crusade's Arnold, a former missionary to Africa, says it's also important for short-term workers to serve in their own spheres before traveling to serve in another context: "Learn how to serve and witness in your own culture first, and then apply those principles to other places."

Arnold also emphasizes the importance of learning about the culture to which one is traveling, and aiming to minimize seemingly harmless behaviors that might be offensive. (This often takes good research and practice for short-term volunteers unaware of social mores in other cultures.)

Another way short-term workers could serve missionaries well is to consider going back or staying longer. This is especially important in areas that take more time and expense to reach.

Anna Baker, 25, worked as a teacher in Georgia for a year before looking into how she could use her gifts on the mission field. During an orientation with Wycliffe, she learned about the pressing need for educators to teach the children of missionaries on fields around the world. Some missionaries were even considering leaving the field because of the lack of good educational options for their children. Baker signed up to teach in Cameroon for a year and finishes her term in June.

Baker told WORLD it was difficult to leave her home and family for a longer period of time than the typical short-term trip but says it's worth the rewards. To those hesitant about committing to a longer period of time, Baker says: "Try giving yourself a chance to grow and experience missions, and try giving God a chance to use you."

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