Warm Coats Given to Syrian Refugees in Northern Iraq

Warm Coats Given to Syrian Refugees in Northern Iraq

Sabal* pulled a tissue out from his pocket and patted his eyes several times, trying to prevent more tears from slipping out. He paused, then took a breath, and was eventually able to continue on with his story of how his family escaped Syria two months ago after Turkey’s incursion along the border.

Sabal, his wife Nina, and his 24-year-old son fled immediately, with no time to gather up a few essentials such as passports and money. Sabal explained that this is the second time the family has been forced to leave Syria due to war and violence, and despair has finally taken over.

“We have no hope of going home. I hate my life. I have nothing to live for.”

Samaritan’s Purse staff met Sabal during a recent winter clothing distribution in Bardarash refugee camp in northern Iraq. Sabal is among thousands of Syrian refugees in the camp who have received warm coats from our teams. We also distributed boots and socks to all the children in Bardarash.

These winter items are much needed as temperatures should soon drop below freezing in the area, and the refugees have come to Bardarash with very little. Many of the clothing items we distributed were airlifted to Iraq aboard the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 aircraft.

These winter items are much needed as temperatures should soon drop below freezing in the area, and the refugees have come to Bardarash with very little. Many of the clothing items we distributed were airlifted to Iraq aboard the Samaritan’s Purse DC-8 aircraft.

Our aircraft also transported urgently needed supplies for displaced families in northeast Syria. We then worked with local partners to send several convoys of trucks from Iraq into Syria that carried the relief supplies, such as blankets, sleeping mats, cooking kits, tents, and water filters.

Samaritan’s Purse teams are sharing God’s love and peace to people who so desperately need it—people like Sabal, who carry with them tremendous grief. One of Sabal’s sons was killed by ISIS. Another son was burned so badly during war he had to leave Syria in order to seek medical care.

“We have no hope of going home. I have nothing to live for.”

And the son who came with Sabal and Nina to Bardarash is traumatized to the point that he rarely speaks. “I want to cure my son only. I want nothing for me,” Sabal said.

Sabal expressed thanks to Samaritan’s Purse for the winter coats and for treating him and his family with kindness and compassion during such a painful time.

“Thank you for seeing us as human beings.”

Nebez and his family also received winter coats and his grandchildren now have warm boots and socks.

“The winter is going to be very cold,” Nebez said. “We appreciate your help.”

Nebez is paralyzed, and family members had to carry him away from his home in a blanket in order to survive. “The military started bombing our houses and killing my people,” he explained. “My house and my shop both got burned. I left everything.”

In the chaos and panic of trying to flee, Nebez was separated from his 19-year-old son. “I don’t know where he is, if he’s alive or not. I lost him. I have no idea where my son is.”

Life in a refugee camp is especially challenging for someone who is paralyzed. “I walk, I fall down. I try to take a bath, I fall down,” he said. “I have been here almost two months and only bathed once. The water is very cold.”

Nebez also struggles to provide for his family—which includes his wife, daughter-in-law, his two daughters, and seven grandchildren—in the camp. They have little money left after paying people to smuggle them across the border.

“I am an old man—it’s fine for me to not have food every day. But what about this infant?” he said, pointing to his youngest grandchild who is only 2 months old. “It’s not about me, it’s about my family.”

Sera is also worried about her family living in the camp, especially her son Coban, who is 3-years-old and unable to talk or walk. Coban can’t hold his head up or sit on his own, so Sera has to stay with him at night. “I don’t care if I sleep or not, but I have to take care of my son.”

Sera and her husband spent $500 in order for them to cross the border into northern Iraq with Coban and his younger brother. They had to walk for four hours in the middle of the night to reach the border, carrying their young sons the entire way.

The family fled in such a hurry they brought nothing with them, not even shoes or clothes.

But what weighs on Sera’s mind the most is Coban and what kind of future he will face. “The hardest thing for me is when I see other kids walking and my son cannot walk.”

Sera and her family were grateful to receive coats from Samaritan’s Purse to help keep them warm during the harsh winter months. They welcomed our staff and thanked them for coming to Bardarash.

Please pray for Sera and other mothers in the refugee camp who are trying to take care of their children. Pray for Nebez and Sabal and the many parents who have suffered so much loss and continue to press on for the sake of their families.

*Names have been changed for security.

Samaritan’s Purse stands ready to respond at a moment’s notice whenever and wherever disaster strikes. We specialize in meeting critical needs for victims of conflict, disaster, famine, and epidemics throughout the world, often working through ministry partners on the ground. We provide food, water, shelter, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ.

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ. The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising for your team members. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.

 

Living on the edge…displaced people in the Acholi Quarters, Uganda

Living on the edge…displaced people in the Acholi Quarters, Uganda

It’s already Monday morning…hard to believe we have only three days left. Difficult to sort through our thoughts as it’s all pretty intense but we wanted to share a little more with you as we have some time before we go to visit our students at the secondary school…

So began the letter written in Uganda by Jan and Stephanie, mother and daughter on a mission trip with Loving One by One Ministries.

When we visit the Acholi Quarters, which we did on Saturday, it’s a favorite. The Acholi people are from northern Uganda and many years back were forced out of the north down to the Kampala Capital area where at least 11,000 people have “settled” on this one hill, on the edge of the rock quarry. They were essentially escaping from all the murder and mayhem set upon them by Joseph Kony and the LRA. Many of you will be familiar with the worldwide campaign against the atrocities of the LRA and Joseph Kony as they were taking young boys and forcing them into their army while young girls became sex-slaves. Others were just slaughtered…evil personified. Kony left a trail of blood and death and tragedy. The Acholi now call this area, “home.”

Jan Photo 1

Sorry to begin with such a dark story but their story of survival and resilience is pretty amazing. They are ‘slum dwellers’ but having visited them multiple times over the years we are always blessed. We see several we ‘know’ from past visits, some whose health back then was precarious at best, and we are always struck by their smiles and gratefulness that has the effect of somewhat diminishing the conditions in which they live. We did a full medical clinic in Acholi and gave out deworming pills to at least 1,300 children and young people. Yes, 1,300! We are their medical care and they depend on us, on groups like us, who are consistent in coming back repeatedly. They know we can be counted on to be there for them!

After deworming, we had a full medical clinic for another 1,000 plus. And because our Ugandan doctors inadvertently had gone to a different area initially and were late in coming to where we were, the first hour and a half moved slowly. This turned out great because that gave us many opportunities to talk and pray with many of those at the clinic and that is always a sweet blessing. Here again, their countless ‘thank you’s’, ’God bless you’ and ‘you are welcome here’ are so humbling and heart warming. Joy and sweetness on their faces…they have nothing, yet share with us at such a deep level.

jan replace

 

One terribly sad and horrifying story I must share was of a young child, maybe 3 years old, who came to the clinic early on crying uncontrollably with severely burned hands. No one ‘claimed’ him/her…yes, very often you can’t readily tell the gender….but can you imagine not keeping track of your little one, let alone when they were in desperate need of medical care? But as we slowly learned, apparently her step-mother had burned her as a form of punishment. Heartbreaking, but sadly not an uncommon story. It is still unfolding but one of our hosts went to the police, finding this is at least a second report on this woman. Not sure about the father and truthfully whether it’s the step-mother or actually the mother. Stories are so twisted and it’s very hard to find out the truth. Our host is on this to find out the truth and the police are supposedly and hopefully researching the circumstances. Praying for this child and countless others whose ‘stories’ may be known only to God…May He truly be the “Father to the fatherless.”

But there is good news in the bad….many local Christians are outspoken about their faith and pray openly and without shame or fear. But when we are confronted with the hard stories, like the one just shared, we know there are countless others of which we are not aware. So here’s where we can do only what is in front of us, what God shows us and who He brings to us. We operate only in His strength and by His guidance.

Jan photo 2

It is desperately hard at the end of a slum or village clinic to get on our bus and see those precious children smiling and waving…as we head back to our guest house, to showers and beds, food and clean water. But we are blessed and touched beyond measure and thank the Lord for the privilege of being there….

On MissionFinder, we have over 2,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Stephanie and Jan’s mission trip was hosted by Loving One by One Ministries.

Why We Serve…

Why We Serve…

Double N was born the other morning without too much indication that anything was wrong. I was called to the delivery not because there was any significant concern about the baby, but just to “be an extra pair of hands” at a time when we were short-staffed and the hospital was busy.

I glanced somewhat forlornly at the HUGE mountain of papers haphazardly arranged on the dining room table before I went to change into scrubs and head to the hospital. But I figured this would only be a quick blip on the radar screen of the day, and then I’d be back to continue working through those papers.

Right. I have got to stop thinking any interruption is ever short. Eight hours later, there I was, still at the hospital, with a critically ill little baby who I had intubated (and re-intubated. And re-intubated), and who was getting worse despite everything I did.

He died. 8.5 hours into life. I went to the family and told them that despite the maximum resources at our disposal, he was worsening. And all I was doing was prolonging his suffering, not prolonging his life. Did they want to hold him as he breathed his last few breaths? Did they want to touch him or dress him or call anyone before he died?

In the end, it was just the parents, Double N, and the medical team caring for him who were in the room as the parents said their goodbyes. A newborn with 4 older siblings at home who would never meet him. A mom who never got to feed her baby or hear his cry. A dad who never got the chance to cradle his newborn son in his arms. Oh, those moments tear at my heart.

I have written plenty on death. On the myriad of feelings it brings with it. On the difficulties and the triumphs and the anguish that accompany it. This post isn’t about that. This post is about a family who demonstrated beautifully strong yet simple trust. A family that made me stop and wonder at their endurance. A family who serves as yet another reminder of why I am here.

Mom was pretty sick after the C-section. So sick, in fact, that there was no guarantee that she would be able to be discharged in time to attend Double N’s funeral (Honduran custom – and law – is that burial happens within 24 hours of the death). Early on in Double N’s care, I went to the family and told them how sick he was. I told them we were doing everything possible, and that there was nowhere else that could do more. I told them that if I knew of any place that could do more, I would tell them and I would send them. But this wasn’t about a lack of resources. This was about a baby who was gravely ill and all our resources – or any resources – just might not be enough. Dad looked me in the eye and said “we want to be here. Here is where we trust you. We trust you do everything you can. We trust you to care for us.”

That didn’t make it easier to go back into the room a few hours later as it became apparent that maximum efforts weren’t sufficient to sustain this baby’s life. As I began to express how sorry I was for the baby’s imminent death, dad again looked me right in the eye. “This is life,” he told me. “This is what happens. We have to go on. We don’t blame you.”

In the end, they said their goodbyes and then asked us to take the baby out until he breathed his last. Watching his agonal respirations was not how they wanted to remember him. As there was little more I could do for the baby, I stayed with the parents. And we talked. In one of their most broken moments, we talked. And out of their hearts poured questions and fears and recollections. In those moments, we spoke of truth. Of what matters. Of eternity.

Of heavenly reunions. And when the baby’s life passed from our arms to his Heavenly Father’s, we gathered together – the family, the medical staff, and this baby’s care team – and we prayed together. What a beautiful time of seeing the church stand together. Irrespective of culture and language and background. Our small group at the bedside spanned all of that. And yet it was all pushed aside as we were united in Christ. Double N was honored in life. He was honored in death. He is even now with Christ, who sits at a place of honor in heaven, awaiting the day his earthly family will be reunited with him there.  Dr. Judy Blumhofer, CHSC Pediatrician at Loma De Luz Hospital in Honduras.

Christian Health Service Corps is a ministry of Christian doctors, health professionals and health educators serving the poor in places that have little or no access to healthcare. Each year, we bring compassionate, life-saving health services to hundreds of thousands of families around the world. Our doctors and health professionals are often the only access to care for young families in poor communities.

The Christian Health Service Corps (CHSC) is dedicated to transforming the health of children and families in their communities. CHSC health professionals save many lives while imparting knowledge that builds community capacity for sustainable change. With respect for human dignity, we work to build community capacity to  promote a worldview that nurtures and supports spiritual, and physical wholeness in families. Ensure child survival and normal growth of children and improve health infrastructure and access to functional healthcare services. Learn more about how you can help support their work here.

On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising for your team members. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.

Seven Ways to Show Jesus’ Love this Holiday

Seven Ways to Show Jesus’ Love this Holiday

Did you ever consider that Aunt Melba’s Christmas cookies could be a way to help you say “Jesus loves you” this time of year? For many, the holidays are a time of joy, but for others it’s a time of intense need. We want to share seven ways you can spread some cheer in your home while blessing others.

1. Surprise your neighbor with a batch of homemade cookies.

Homemade Christmas cookies can be a great way to strike up a conversation with neighbors you may not know very well. Building relationships with neighbors can lead to opportunities to share about the hope you have this Christmas (and every Christmas). Aunt Melba’s recipe for Christmas cookies is provided here as a fun activity for kids, grandkids, or church groups.

2. Clean out your closets and donate clothes.

Many of us have extra clothes that hang unused in our closet for most of the year. Those clothes can be gift to people both close to home and around the world. Take some time this season to gather extra clothes from your closet, identify a good charity that accepts donations of clothes in your area, and drop off the clothes.

3. Pray for refugees.

While most of us gather with our families this Christmas, many refugees are far from home, displaced in camps throughout the Middle East. This is a sobering thought. Much of the time, they have faced tragedy through the loss of friends and loved ones. Take time with your family to pray for refugees. Pray they will receive aid and comfort and experience God’s love in some way. Learn more here, how GAiN meets critical needs for victims of conflict, disaster, famine, and epidemics throughout the world by providing food, water, shelter, and medicine — all in the name of Jesus.

4. Assemble winter kits for people in need.

The world is full of people unable to make ends meet. Parents might struggle to feed their family. Others may have nowhere to live. These scenarios happen throughout the year, and sometimes those in need express it by holding a cardboard sign or asking for help as we walk by. As you do your regular shopping, pick up a few items for winter kits that you can keep in your car for such encounters. Assemble items like those in the list below and tuck them into a reusable shopping bag or gallon freezer bag:

Socks
Gloves
Trail mix
Toothbrush
Granola bars
Tissues
Comb
Gift card to a fast-food restaurant
A note of encouragement

5. Deliver greeting cards to the residents of a senior center.

Festivities abound during the holiday season. However, elderly folks living in senior centers frequently miss out on holiday gatherings. Seniors, especially those with few family members close by, love visitors. Cards containing encouraging messages given to residents provide a special treat—and if you add a drawing from a budding young artist, that’s even better!

6. Volunteer at a food pantry or soup kitchen.

According to Feeding America, 42 million people face the threat of hunger daily in the United States. One in five children go hungry every month. Hunger affects how people perform at work and how children perform in school. A couple hours sorting food at a local food pantry or serving meals at a soup kitchen can mean so much to hungry hearts. You’ll be surprised how rewarding those few hours can be!

7. Make hot cocoa or apple cider, gather your family, and read the Christmas story.

You don’t need chestnuts roasting over an open fire—just a warm drink, a Bible, and your family or friends. Matthew 1:18–2:12 is a good place to start. Luke 1-2 is another side to the story of the birth of Jesus.

Joining together to brighten someone’s day blesses both the giver and the receiver. Enjoy your time spreading joy to people around you! And if you want to expand your reach, we can help you share the kindness of Jesus to people living in tough places in the world!

© Jason Cress

As the humanitarian partner of Cru, Global Aid Network (GAiN) expresses the love of Jesus Christ in the toughest places on earth by relieving suffering, restoring dignity, and revealing hope. We accomplish our mission, in partnership with international Cru ministries, through food and agriculture, clean water, and critical aid. Our partners at Cru work in more than 191 countries in the world.

On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising for your team members. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.

 

Anna’s Miracle

Anna’s Miracle

Anna, is a seventeen year old girl who enjoys food and sensory play. She has severe learning difficulties and is non-verbal, but she certainly knows how to make noise and enjoy life! However, this was not always the case. Anna was healthy at birth, but developed a fever, resulting in convulsions at 2 months old.  This left her with brain damage. Anna’s mother, who was widowed several years after Anna’s birth struggled to get her to eat well and was pressured by her relatives to keep her hidden away in their mud hut so that she wouldn’t bring shame on the family; in Uganda disability is assumed to be either as a result of demonic possession, witchcraft or a punishment for sin!

Anna at age 8 when she came to us

By the time Anna was eight years old, her mother was being told to leave her to die as the relatives saw her as a great burden. In her desperation, she walked for miles to bring her to one of the Treasures in Jars of Clay (TIJOC, NHU’s special needs ministry) community sessions to get help. Anna was brought to us on a scorching hot December day, hidden in a bundle of blankets. Her head was a normal size but the rest of her body was tiny and her bones were protruding. She weighed just 5.5 kg (12 lbs) and could not sit.

As a team we decided that we should send Anna and her mother to the local hospital to be admitted into the nutrition ward. At this point, Anna was only drinking 500 ml (16 oz) of milk a day. She refused to eat or drink anything else and would only accept the milk if it was the right temperature (very hot!) During her admission in hospital, she gained a little weight and her mother received some nutritional advice. As Anna was from a very poor family of subsistence farmers who lived far from New Hope Uganda, we decided to bring Anna to stay on-site for a short period of time, to enable her to follow a strict, high calorie diet.

In our care, with regular visits from her family, Anna began to sit and interact with people. Her crying and self-stimulation behavior reduced and she began smiling and even laughing. However, despite a high calorie diet of liquidized food, Anna did not gain as much weight as we had hoped and continued to suffer from diarrhea and weakness. It was not until a doctor suggested we try and give her some TB medication that she began to get chubby and to gradually accept solid food! She began to shuffle along on her bottom and would grab food or drinks belonging to other children and staff!

In time, Anna grew stronger and stronger. She learned to feed herself and began standing and walking with a special frame. In the past few months, Anna has taken her first, independent steps which she is very happy about!

Anna today with her sister and mother

As well as the miracle we have witnessed in Anna herself, we can also testify to the miracle that happened in the attitudes of her relatives. At our community sessions, we are constantly sharing with the parents and caregivers, what we believe the Bible teaches about ALL people being unconditionally loved by God and ALL being precious and valuable to him. We are so thankful that Anna is now loved and accepted in her family.  When she goes home for the school holidays she is well cared for and allowed to play outside with the rest of the family.

In the tribe Anna is from, when a woman’s husband dies, she then becomes the wife of the brother-in-law and this is what has happened with Anna’s mother. She has since had 2 more children, one of whom also has severe learning disabilities following a traumatic birth. Vincent is now 6 years-old and is also a student in our Treasures Class. Both Vincent and Anna are both boarders during the school terms. We are thankful that Vincent has also been accepted by the family. Vincent was very poorly in his early years, but is now healthy and very active. Although he, like his sister, has autistic tendencies and sensory processing disorder, he has learned to eat solid food, feed himself, and enjoys interacting with others.

Two months ago there was lots of excitement in New Hope Uganda when Anna took her first few steps without holding onto anyone or anything.  A night later she walked to the front of church as together we praised God for what he had been doing in her life, thanking him for those who have patiently and consistently worked with Allen over several years, and thanking him for the strength and courage he is giving her.  To God be the glory!

New Hope Uganda (NHU) is an organization dedicated to bringing the fatherhood of God to the fatherless through holistic Gospel transformation in communities.

Uganda’s continual killings and brutal civil war from 1981-1986 left thousands of children orphaned and hopeless. When the Dangers family arrived in Uganda shortly thereafter, the landscape was filled with darkness. Remnants of the war greeted them at every turn. Human skulls and personal stories of loss served as constant reminders of God’s calling to bring hope to the hopeless and the Fatherhood of God to the fatherless. After two years of trials and hard work, NHU welcomed its first 10 children. Since then, the ministry has grown into a work that is impacting thousands for Christ, through the three main sites and throughout its surrounding communities and the nation at large.

On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising pages. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.

How Meals Open the Door to Eternal Hope

How Meals Open the Door to Eternal Hope

Across the Horn of Africa, famine looms — again.

Just scan news headlines, and you will see that hunger haunts the region, hunting down entire communities throughout the Horn of Africa every few years.

In one country in the area, more than 5 million people will soon require help to meet their nutritional needs to survive. The country has faced over half a dozen periods of food insecurity in four decades. People are hungry once again. They are also weary.

But they are not alone. Around the world more than 800 million people struggle to find enough food.

A United Community

In nearby Uganda people from South Sudan seek safety and a fresh start. Currently there are roughly 1 million refugees living in Uganda; most have fled the trauma of civil war.

But life still is not easy in their new country. Many of the South Sundanese refugees living in Uganda struggle to find food and hope. Recently 980 refugee families, along with prison inmates, orphans, and university students, received meals from Global Aid Network® (GAiN®). They were so grateful for the nourishment they need to survive.

After the meal distribution, many of the refugees who once struggled with bitterness toward other groups began to experience reconciliation and forgiveness. The kindness of Jesus softened their hearts and began the healing process. When the eternal hope of Jesus was shared, 235 people responded and 89 joined a discipleship group. Amidst hunger, war, and strife, these refugees now have a brighter future filled with hope.

A Cup of Cold Water

When you consider world hunger, and the 800 million people who struggle to find enough food, it feels like we can do so little. Yet Jesus reminds us that small things matter. Look at His words in Matthew 25:37-40:

Then the righteous will answer Him, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and go to visit You?”

The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”

Whenever we take the time to express kindness to those who are hurting — when we offer them a cup of cold water or nourishing food — we are also offering that same kindness to Jesus. Such acts, however small, restore dignity and ultimately reveal hope.

We may not be able to end world hunger today, but we can each do something. And that small act — whether it be for a neighbor or someone around the world — might just change their life.

Fight Famine: Rush Meals and Hope to Africa

Across the Horn of Africa families and communities are teetering on the brink of famine. They are desperate for food now. We are trusting God to send 1.8 million meals to hungry people in 13 countries by Christmas. But we need your help to reach that goal and save people from starvation. Every 13 cents you give today will rush a nutrition-packed meal to a hungry child or family. And with each meal given comes an opportunity to relieve suffering, restore dignity, and reveal hope! Learn how you can help here.

As the humanitarian partner of Cru®, Global Aid Network® (GAiN®) expresses the kindness of Jesus to people living in the toughest places on earth by relieving suffering, restoring dignity, and revealing hope. We accomplish our mission, in partnership with international Cru ministries, through three programs: food and agriculture, clean water, and critical aid. Our partners at Cru work in more than 191 countries in the world. Over the course of 25 years of ministry, GAiN has leveraged strategic global partnerships and the service of dedicated volunteers to relieve suffering for people through humanitarian assistance.

One Man Changes A Village

One Man Changes A Village

Moses is a man who grew up, came to know Jesus, was trained by Operation Mobilization (OM) in his native Zambia and was then sent to Chitwe, a village on the great Lake Tanganyika that borders Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Tanzania.

Stretching 420 miles long and 31 wide, Lake Tanganyika is the world’s second largest body of freshwater that beautifies Africa like a glittering pool when seen from outer space. But, with a lake bottom that sits almost a mile below the surface, it is also Africa’s deepest lake, giving the water a dark and abysmal quality, as if to symbolize certain occult beliefs associated with the lake.

Your youngest child for a fish

Once a month, the bright light of the full moon drives fish to very deep parts of Lake Tanganyika leaving the fishermen without a catch. Not understanding natural laws, the tribal fisherman concluded that angry lake gods were at fault.  Each month, after consulting a witchdoctor, a fisherman would sacrifice their youngest child and sprinkle his fishing net with the blood and remains before going out to fish. This would appease the lake gods and ensure their hand in an ample catch of fish until the next month when the pact would be renewed. This practice is a tradition that goes back for centuries.

Showing a better way – one man changes a village

Into this context OM sent our worker, Moses. He settled into this unreached village, perched on the border between Zambia and Tanzania, with a boat OM supplied so he could live as a self-sustaining and credible presence, using relevant skills in this unreached community that depends on fishing for its main industry and sustenance.

Moses remembers going to this community, “to be a light in that place. I didn’t go to tell them what they were doing wrong; I went to show them how to live right and bring the teachings of Jesus.”

Moses understood that on bright moon-lit nights, fish were just in a different part of the lake.  He caught fish on those nights of the full moon. The village fisherman took notice. Soon a change came over the village that would eradicate the fearful superstition with its cost of young lives.

Moses and his fishing boat became the talk of the village, gaining controversial recognition as the “prayer boat” when it surprised locals with a series of bountiful catches without any aid from ritual sacrifices. As word of this “miracle” spread, other fishermen came to Moses wanting to join as crew and were welcomed, giving him the opportunity to share the message behind the boat’s name, King of Kings, and its unconventional approach involving prayer.

In addition to catching fish without sacrificing young lives, Moses loved and respected his wife and showed love while interacting with his children in the village. His Christ-like attitude and interactions both in his personal life and with his crew on the boat demonstrated a light and a different way of being the villagers hadn’t witnessed before.

One of the first to hear and embrace Moses’ message and lifestyle was a village chief named Andrew. He prayed to receive Christ in large part because he was impressed with Moses’s distinct character and lifestyle.

Soon, many came to faith. Moses got to disciple them on the boat during the long hours on the lake helping their faith and understanding to grow. They learned for the first time about the Creator God who became a man and offered Himself as a human sacrifice, paying the price of sin once and for all in order to restore mankind to relationship with Himself. They learned that the King of kings is supreme and, unlike the angry and bloodthirsty lake gods, provides for those who seek Him with no further need of sacrifice and bloodshed.

Once fearful villagers fearlessly take light and hope to neighboring villages and a new generation

Today, Andrew is no longer consulting witchdoctors, beating his wife or relying on alcohol to cope with the guilt and superstitious fears from which he has been freed. Andrew became the church leader and is at Moses’s side in ministry, evangelizing neighboring villages along Lake Tanganyika and mentoring a group of younger men to become Africa’s next generation of native missionaries. The growing band of fishermen comprises a group of OM workers native to Africa who are upsetting tradition while bringing fundamental change to a remote and least-reached area of the world. Nicknamed the “fishers of men,” they own and operate a fishing boat business, with two more recently purchased “prayer boats,” that relies not on blood sacrifices but on the power of prayer. The business and its profits are a self-sustaining means to their missionary work.

A community of Jesus followers, impacting the society in which it exists with local leadership, is now multiplying itself in the surrounding area. A vibrant community was born and is bringing other vibrant communities to life, after investment in one indigenous man.

Operation Mobilization traces its roots to the prayers of an American housewife. In the 1950s, Dorothea Clapp began to pray faithfully for the students in her local High School. She asked God to touch the world through the lives of those young people. And God answered her prayers!

Mrs. Clapp gave a copy of the Gospel of John to one of those students, who later gave his life to the Lord at a Billy Graham meeting. That young man was George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization.

Operation Mobilization (OM), USA is a global organization working with 6,800 missionaries in 118 nations to build communities of Christ followers, provide humanitarian assistance and demonstrate compassion. Though the Gospel has been with us for nearly 2,000 years, 2.8 billion people have never experienced its message of love and hope. In many cases, these same people are being crushed by unspeakable poverty, horrific injustice and cruel social and political systems.

Whether it’s rescuing enslaved women in Asia, assisting refugees in Europe, or developing bodies of believers in the the Middle East, we pinpoint ways to strengthen local communities and use the opportunities God presents us along the way to share The Bible’s life-giving message. When you partner with OM USA, through your professional work, financial generosity, and/or prayer, you become an important member of a worldwide movement with eternal significance. With operations in nearly every region of the world, the sun never sets on our operations, meaning you will be part of a team serving the needy and spreading the Word of God every minute of every day. Few other organizations allow you to see your time and talent reach so far or impact so many.

On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising pages. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.

 

Why We Should go On Short-Term Mission Trips

Why We Should go On Short-Term Mission Trips

For two decades as a leader in youth ministry, one of my goals has been to try and get every committed student to go on at least one mission trip before they graduate high school. There is some debate about whether short-term mission trips are effective for discipling students, but I am convinced that mission trips are a powerful way to help students grow in Christlikeness.

Here are some questions often raised about the legitimacy and effectiveness of short-term mission trips and my responses to them.

I know people who went on mission trips that are no longer serving Jesus. Isn’t that proof that other methods are more effective?

It is a sad reality that some people who go on short-term trips return home and the fire fades. In fact, that probably happens to everyone who goes on a mission trip. The passion and intensity experienced in the midst of a week of concentrated service on a mission are hard to sustain over the course of a year. Some students do indeed even walk away from their faith after amazing God-encounters on a mission trip. I have seen this firsthand, and it saddens me deeply.

However, I have seen kids walk through all different kinds of discipleship methods and end up the same way. It is also true that many students come back from mission trips having had life-changing encounters with God that propel them into a lifetime of passionate service. One of my greatest joys has been taking kids on mission trips and seeing them come home and change the focus of their lives. For example, rather than going to college to become a lawyer so they can make lots of money, they start to ask how they can use their law degree to help people in need, such as victims of human trafficking. I have also had several students pursue full-time ministry in the church as a result of God’s activity in their lives during mission trips. I can think of at least a dozen kids that I have taken on mission trips who are currently serving God vocationally in youth ministry, leading worship, and more. It is very encouraging to realize that taking them away for a week to serve others provided them space to hear God speak to them about His plans for their lives.

Isn’t it a waste to spend all of that money for a bunch of kids to go somewhere for two weeks when that same amount of money could simply be sent to communities and local/national workers who could do so much more with it?

This is a very valid question and one that I personally had to wrestle through quite extensively. However, I began to ask another question: How will we ever fully know the needs around the world and what needs to be done? The truth is, the most powerful learning happens experientially. It happens not when we tell people, but when we show people; when we give them a chance to see for themselves.

The most impactful way to help people get a vision for God’s world is to take them and let them see His world first-hand.

As we go and serve those less fortunate, we begin to see the world through God’s eyes and the reality of our abundance and blessing will stand in stark contrast to what we are witnessing. My prayer is that the question will begin to arise in each participant’s heart: How can I use the resources God has given me to help meet these needs and spread the good news to those who have never heard? In the short-term, the money point is absolutely true. However, if we can see the money spent to take teams around the world as an investment, just imagine what will happen in the long run if even half of the people who do decide to give to missional causes regularly. I dare to say that the money spent on short-term trips will be pennies in comparison to what they will give throughout their lifetimes.

I speak to these first two points, not just theoretically, but from personal experience. When I was 15 years old, I spent a summer on a mission trip in Tanzania, Africa. It was during this trip that I developed a burden for people around the world and God confirmed my call to vocational ministry. From that moment on I never considered doing anything else with my life. I knew that God wanted me to spend the rest of my life in vocational service to Him. Moreover, I love giving to support missional work around the world and inviting others to do the same. In fact, at the time of this writing, I am training to run a marathon, and people are partnering with me, giving to help provide clean water for people in Africa. (Say a prayer for me. 26.2 miles is a long way to run!)

Where do you find the phrase “short-term mission trips” in the Bible?

While you won’t find the phrase specifically, you will find countless short-term trips referred to in the gospels and all throughout the New Testament. One incident is recorded in Luke 10 when Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the good news. I once heard Ron Luce point out three things about this sending. 1) Jesus told them to go. 2) He told them to go even though they were young. (A study of the culture and the lives of the disciples will suggest that many of them were quite young when Jesus called them to be His disciples.) 3) He told them to go on a short trip. Since we are also disciples of Jesus commissioned to spread the good news of God’s love, we can see from this passage that short-term trips are one way to accomplish that mission.

When we are filled with the compassion of Christ for the lost, the poor, the suffering, it will compel us to get involved. Feeling sorry for people will not bring the Gospel to them. Compassion leads to action.

Through short-term mission trips, eyes are opened to the reality of how the rest of the world lives, people are motivated to life-long action aimed at spreading the Gospel, callings, and destinies are revealed and confirmed, and hearts begin to beat God-rhythms for God’s world. While short-term mission trips must be balanced by other discipleship initiatives, I would suggest that they are nevertheless a biblical and powerful tool in God’s toolbox that He draws from to shape us into the image of His Son.

© Kevin Mahaffy

Kevin has served in youth ministry for over 20 years as a teaching pastor and a popular camp and retreat speaker. Kevin has written two books and co-authored several others.

With humble beginnings going back to the early 1990s, Group Mission Trips has been working with and helping communities across the United States and the world. As the non-profit mission ministry of Group Cares, we work hard to bring meaningful service to the communities we serve. Since our beginning, thousands upon thousands of mission trip participants have racked up millions of volunteer hours serving people in need.

All these years later, one constant remains true: We strongly believe in providing opportunities for teenagers to encounter Jesus through serving others either in their own backyard or halfway across the globe. The Group Mission Trips legacy of lasting impact continues.

On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. Does your church or organization need help organizing mission trips? Check out our partner site, MissionMinder.com. Their easy to use software will help you manage all the details for your short-term mission trips and team members online. Unlimited Trips. Unlimited team members. Easy online fundraising pages. Try it free for 30 days. Learn more here.