why a partnership is better than a mission trip

i’ve been on mission trips before. where you buy specific things needed to make the journey most comfortable and pack the items that you are okay parting with if they get too dirty or become too smelly to bring home.

i’ve arrived by bus, van, plane, rickshaw, and train. i’ve set out to see lives changed, encourage the local believers, and make a difference. i’ve raised support to get me there and bring me back. i’ve even carted our kids on these mission trips. 

but what i’ve discovered is that a partnership is better than a mission trip.

the word mission is a latin word ‘mittere’ meaning “send.” it denotes the sending of the Holy Spirit into the world. 

this is our mission — to take the Good News to the world. i’m just not sure one can do it on a trip!

what we can do is partner with those in their called places who are living out the mission of Christ. 

some friends and i were strolling through a park along the river in romania. we were there to come alongside our partner church, impact church. it was just a few years ago that a young man was a part of a church start in romania and had found a home in our church start in san francisco. ben and his romanian pastor connected over coffee in the states and a partnership was born. one trip after another has happened over the course of a few years and with every visit, deeper friendships take shape. we come as individual believers to be a part of the whole. 

because a partnership is a working together to build what we can’t build on our own. to accomplish not what we can do in our own strength, but link arms with one another. several people on our team described the partnership powerfully. 

in a partnership, you step into their story.

jacob called it a chain reaction. the local believers had the vision. they work in the clinic, caring for the sick. we enter into the story to paint the walls. a company learns of what is happening and sees the vision. they decide to update the beds. 

you ask how can you come alongside in their mission.

“it’s not just dropping in, but making lasting impact,” michelle pointed out as we were seeing the beauty of partnership. and joe spoke of the reality that we do this because God’s done so much in our lives. it should be our response. it’s a foolish idea to take what works in our context and expect it to work in another context. this does neither partner any good. what works is when we help boost the mission that they are after. it was in a technology creatives talk in the romanian town where some of our guys spoke into how they are growing their business, employing people, and making a difference. they pointed out that the root of all of their work is their faith in God. it would be locals who attended this event that would show up for the very first time at the church that we said we were partnering with. that was a boost. 

you learn.

that’s what lisa did. she noticed the small steps we were all doing, but began to pray for big change to come because of the partnership. while she might not return on the very next trip, she knew what she had done was laying groundwork for our future teams and the ongoing work of the local church. 

you listen.

the best inspiration this side of heaven are the stories of our brothers and sisters in the miracles and the suffering.

and we heard them. the miracle follows the suffering. and in a partnership you grieve and rejoice and share in the suffering and celebration. because you’re family. my absolute favorite part of the trip was to hear one of the pastors share stories with such passion. it was far more than any museum or tour guide could afford. listening to locals invite you into the story that God is writing far beyond what you can see. but you must listen. 

you share all things.

you share resources. you shoulder burdens. you return. you invite others into the partnership. you break bread. you see partnerships as a gift to the next generation that will transform the way you see God’s global church. 

on that stroll through the park that day, us friends redefined the work we were a part of. we weren’t in romania on a mission trip. we were there as a partnership - to come alongside our brothers and sisters again to shoulder, share, and see God in the miracles and the suffering. 

do you see it this way? you are partnering with a charity or organization or the local church. what are your learning from the partnership?