Sometimes it can be hard to think of good ideas for ministry on your mission trip. We want to encourage you that though you may not immediately have ideas, or may feel you lack skills and talents that would be useful, when you’re a part of a short term mission the most important thing is building relationships.
Why Are Relationships So Important?
When you ask a North American what poverty is, the majority of the time you receive an answer about the lack of material possessions, or basic material needs. When you ask someone from the Majority World who is experiencing poverty how they define it, you’d be surprised what their answer usually is.
Impoverished people almost always define poverty to be a constant sense of worthlessness, of being inferior, unwanted, unneeded, or incapable. Although physical needs have a role, they are more concerned with relational poverty and a degraded self-image. It is impossible for them to look at the surprising number of resources and talents they have and see how they can start finding a way out of poverty until they have the chance to see themselves as worthy, empowered, needed, and capable. When you go on a short term mission, in order to be effective, it is important to concentrate on relationship.
Why Do I Have to OK Everything Through the Office First?
It’s hard not to want to give people things, since that is what we see when we look at the difference between our lifestyles and countries. But we do not want to step on the toes of the longer term missionaries, staff, and Ethiopian churches as we do our mission.
Sometimes, what we think is a great idea or a perfect, generous gift, can have long term negative effects that we don’t realize. For that reason, we will not allow you to do ministries or projects that are not first given the OK from our Ethiopian staff.
Although a fun VBS with prizes and all sorts of crafts and games may seem like a wonderful gift for the community, if you are not invited or asked to do it, or you don’t get the social workers, staff, and local church involved, they may start seeing their regular church activities to be “boring” and may drift away from fellowship with the local church, or expect everyone to give them things whenever they plan an activity. You may have a generous and hard working spirit and want to build a bunch of homes or other buildings for the community, but perhaps it’s better to provide the funding and only assist in the building, because you’d be providing jobs for the locals as well as the buildings themselves.
Constantly giving material items can create the relationship dynamic of a giver and receiver, where a receiver always feels beholden to and lesser than the giver. We want make people feel valued, not inferior or ashamed because they cannot provide for their children what we can so easily.
So Then What Can I Do?
Be willing to take a background role as you do your mission. Support those who are already there doing the work every day to help their own community rise above poverty. Encourage the local church and assist in their endeavours. Ask them what they have wanted to do but have been unable to, and see if you can help them achieve it. Build healthy relationships of equality and encouragement. Many people have stories of how simply talking to someone about their dreams and future, and being told that they are capable of achieving great things, was enough to help them pull themselves out of poverty and provide a brighter future for their children.
You may not have unlimited resources, talents, or skills to offer, but we guarantee that your presence is the greatest gift you could ever give, and will have the most impact on the lives you touch.
Above all, tell them about Christ. The Gospel of Christ is incredibly freeing, and extremely powerful. Although we may be able to provide everything people both need and desire, without Christ, it’s as though nothing was really given at all. It is natural to talk about faith in Ethiopia, so use the opportunity to be bold and tell the story of how every one of them was so valuable that God gave His greatest gift in the form of His Son’s death upon a cross, so that we could once again be in relationship with Him and spend eternity as His adopted children.
That being said, here are a few ideas for ministry you can think about. Provided they are cleared through the Ethiopian office, we would be happy to help you plan any of the following ministries!
A Few Ideas:
PLAN A VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL FOR THE CHILDREN AND TEENS
Get the local church involved, set up teams led by the social workers or church members, and have a fun week of teaching the kids of the community all about the bible! Coordinate with our staff to set up some games, activities, and crafts to aid in teaching important Christian principles and values. Perhaps share a meal together, and do some small group sessions where the kids can talk to the local church members and youth leaders about what they’re learning, making lasting connections with local Christians.
SET UP A CONFERENCE OR SEMINAR
Do you have skills in speaking or teaching? Consider encouraging the local church, pastors or church staff, men, or women by setting up a conference or seminar. Run a women’s conference, encouraging them in their value and significance to God. Help out pastors and staff by teaching them new skills in bible teaching or small group leading utilizing the resources they have available. Start a men’s group with some local church members, encouraging them to be bold and courageous men of God and examples to their families and the community.
HELP OUT AT THE ACADEMY
Do you have computer skills? Are you a teacher or instructor? Do you speak english? Well, then there’s a role for you! Become a teaching assistant for a few days, helping out a teacher and taking the time to encourage them and learn from how they do their work. Teach a computer class, giving staff, locals, and students real world skills that could one day provide them with work. Help out with teaching english, or do an english camp. Many better paying positions in Ethiopia require some skills in english, so even just encouraging them as they learn it and assuring them they’re doing well can make a great impact.
HELP OUT WITH A BUILDING PROJECT
Occasionally we have building projects on the go, as we expand our Income for Life program, or hopefully start building our High School! We prefer to hire locals to do the majority of the building, because it helps them take ownership of the community and provides them with income, but there are often roles for you as well! Let us know your interest and we will let you know if we have anything on the go, or intend to start a building project in the near future.
PURCHASE SUPPLIES AND BUILD BIOSAND WATER FILTERS
Biosand filters are extremely simple to make, and not overly expensive. Consider raising funds for the supplies for a specific number of biosand filters, and we can help you purchase the correct materials, and learn how to build them. This is a great gift for the community, and we hope to expand our water project over the next few years.
PARTICIPATE IN HOME VISITS
This is something we request every team that comes to Ethiopia participate in. You will team up with one of our social workers for the day as they make their rounds, visiting our Life Sponsored families. There are certain protocols we will instruct you in on these visits, but they are mostly for building relationships and coming to understand the needs of the community. You’ll often stay to have hot drinks with the family, usually coffee. It is a perfect opportunity to tell them about Christ, or encourage them in their faith, as well as make some lasting connections with the family. We do encourage you to bring small “hostess” gifts for the families you visit, and will provide a list of what would be appropriate.
Do you have particular talents, skills, or education you believe would be an asset to our community or staff? We would love for you to do training sessions. Our Income for Life program may be doing a project for an individual or group that is right up your alley, or our staff would be incredibly blessed to discuss and discover new ways to be even more effective in their ministry and vocation.
BLESS A STAFF MEMBER AND THEIR FAMILY
A lot of our social workers, staff, and the pastors in local churches rarely get time to see their families, and almost never get time off! Consider taking the time and resources to give a staff member a wonderful night or weekend off. Take care of their kids so they can have some time with their spouse, or set up an activity, or pay for a nice meal or a couple days stay at one of the local resorts for their family. These people spend every day of their lives selflessly serving their community, it would be an incredible blessing just to have you spend time giving them encouragement, renewal, and refreshment, so they can continue their ministry.
DO MEDICAL CHECKUPS & HEALTH EDUCATION
There is only one clinic in Debre Zeyit. If you are a medical professional, consider finding out how to bless that clinic, or help out our Life Sponsorship program by doing healthy child checks. Regular checkups for the families are important, and health teaching even more so. Teach some classes about how to prevent disease, or the importance of hydration, nutrition for toddlers or pregnant women, or even a couple classes about puberty. When you teach the people how to care for their most basic ailments, and how to recognize serious disease, you can instill in them a sense of confidence in their ability to care for their families and themselves. Be sure to research cultural practices and available resources in Ethiopia first though! If you don’t tailor your teaching to focus on the good practices they already have, address the reasons why some things are not good practices, and to use the resources most easily and cheaply available to them, it’s not going to do them much good!