So the teams season is coming soon. Sometimes I look at teams and think “Oh man, long food lines, backed up toilets, vehicles breaking down, finances, logistics, blah blah blah.” Yet every single time I am so pleasantly surprised by what they bring to us.
It was easy for me to be really critical of short term trips when I first came into missions, “They are spending $30,000 to bring this team of 25 down to Costa Rica, if they really wanted to make a difference they should have just sent that money down to build a safe house, or pay for a family so their children can study, or give it to an orphanage so they can build more rooms.” It’s true that it might be more “effective” to just send the money down, but that’s not the purpose of short term teams.
Short term teams bring people together, and God uses them to reveal the great hunger and desperation that exists in the world outside our comfortable suburban lives in the USA. Not only that, but it’s often a place that people decide to make a difference. It’s very different to see things firsthand, and I know from experience how real that is. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for a missions trip I took to Mexico when I was 13 years old to build a home for a family. I can vividly remember the house giving ceremony at the end of the week once the house was built. I was sitting on the dirt ground, overlooking the house we had just built and our leader was handing the keys over to the family. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks and thinking to myself “I want to do this for the rest of my life, this feeling right here, there is NOTHING better.”
Most people aren’t willing to commit to the next 6 months to a year of their life right off the bat. But once they have had a week long experience in missions abroad, it becomes something that is a little less scary. Not only that, but I know countless people whose lives, through short term missions trips, have been changed and have gone home to start non-profits that now reach hundreds and thousands of people every year. So to say that short term mission trips are a waste of time and money, is a bit shortsighted, because who knows what the long term repercussions of that will be. If you wanna read more about how we feel about short term teams check out this blog we wrote about a year ago: http://themacklemission.com/2014/06/15/the-truth-about-short-term-teams/
All that being said, we had the privilege this past week to host a team for the second year in a row. They are a team from Nicole’s old high school in Sunnyvale, “The Kings Academy.” The woman who started leading the trip, Debbie, is the mother of Nicole’s best friend and maid of honor Jessica.
Our time with them was impacting, not only for the 15 students and 5 staff that came, but also for us. We had the opportunity to do some things we hadn’t before, and we saw many people touched by the sweet love and kindess of our Father. Here are some pictures to better tell the story.
The first night we went out and delivered iced tea and sandwiches to people prostituting in San Jose:
The next evening, after some labor projects at our local church/ministry center for Freedom Street, we went to give cookies and drinks to the homeless! While out there, we got to sing “Happy Birthday” to a man who was turning 63. He was so full of joy that he got to share his birthday evening drinking hot coffee, eating cookies, and praying with us.
One of the days we we were pleasantly surprised to discover this elderly home by accident. We had originally planned to go to a special needs orphanage, but in the end God had a different plan because the orphanage was already too full of volunteers to receive us. They told us about a government run retirement home up the road. Once we got there we couldn’t believe what we had found, 56 old people living in a home, many of them had been abandoned by their families and found around the city, it was heartbreaking. But we were able to share time with them, listen to their stories, sing with them, and even color with them!
Casa De Pan
One of the afternoons we took the team to a children’s home. This is not an orphanage, even though the parents have 46 children adopted living here. This is a family, and the parents have been adopting abandoned children for the past 40 years. They have adopted and raised over 100 kids that no longer live in this house. That means they have almost 150 kids! Our visit here was to mainly play with the kids and give them a short presentation with a Bible story and songs. One of the coolest things for the team was to see that from a donation that they gave last year, this home is now using a fully-functional water well and saving significant amounts of money not having to pay a water bill!
We had the opportunity to rent out two indoor soccer fields to play futbol with kids from an at risk community where we build homes and do discipleship with the families. We were able to partner with our home building ministry by going to the homes of the people we had built for and bring their kids out for a night of soccer, ice cream, and McDonald’s! We did this on two different nights and it was so cool to treat the kids in this special way.
We had the opportunity to take the team to distribute Bibles in a local neighborhood, they were impacted by the friendliness and openness of the Costa Ricans who we partner with from a local church, as well as those who were receiving the Bibles.
Something Nicole and I have never done is put on a spa for the homeless. Well, on the last day of ministry we had the opportunity. We received about 70 homeless at a church and ministry run by a Pastor and his family who provide programs for the homeless almost every day of the week. After everyone was cleaned up, we served a typical meal of Arroz con Pollo (Rice with Chicken), Salad, Beans, Potatoes, and Jugo, and then we all prayed together. It was one of the most impactful times we had with the team and we can’t wait to do it again.
This is a very poor community full of violence, prostitution, and poverty. We came here to work with the kids one morning while the mothers continued in their program to learn and practice sewing as a way of providing for their families and staying off the streets.
Hosting this team was such a blast, we are totally wiped out after this week and will be enjoying a relaxing 3 day weekend for Easter. Thank you everyone for your prayers and support, we love you!