Are Short-Term Missions Worth the Cost?
Nathan Waggoner, Missionary, Albania
The Call, January-March 2017
Summer 2016 was a busy season for short-term volunteers in Albania. We were blessed to host a university team and two families for one- to two-week trips each and three Volunteers In Action (VIA) interns who stayed for seven weeks! Thousands of dollars were invested last summer in these short-term trips as the volunteers came alongside of us in the village. Was it worth it?
If you Google the question “Are short-term missions worth the cost?” you will find thousands of articles—some thoughtful, some cynical—debating the question. Many articles claim that short-term missionaries benefit much more than their host communities. Most compare the funds used for travel to local wages and consider what else (presumably better) could be done with that money. Some of the examples cited would turn me off from short-term missions completely if I hadn’t experienced the other side.
The team from Asbury University (Kentucky) brought youthful enthusiasm with special skills in worship arts. A student majoring in worship arts along with Jonathan Powers, WGM’s Student Involvement director at Asbury, led a workshop for our young congregation. As a result, a committed group of youth and adults meet weekly to help plan our church services. Not only is the church service enriched and more orderly with the planning but also more people are involved each week.
The team also helped us launch a new children’s program in a neighboring village. (Incidentally, we learned about this community through distributing Christmas shoeboxes—another short-term missions outreach.) We had hoped the draw of our American visitors would help our numbers, but we were amazed when more than 80 kids and adults showed up! Our daughter, Ellie (age 11), played her guitar with Jonathan as they taught the first praise songs ever sung in that community! The youth from our village church caught the vision and have faithfully continued leading this weekly kids’ club outreach.
Nathan (WGM Board member) and Anne Lowe and their children came to Albania on a family missions trip, and they plugged into our village ministries like they had been here from the beginning. Each family member was involved, whether preaching at church, facilitating youth Bible study, holding a chess tournament, leading a workshop for young mothers on childhood brain development, or visiting village homes. I know they left tired, but they helped encourage us and our neighbors.
Since the VIA interns were here for seven weeks, they were involved in all of the above ministries as well as starting a weekly Bible study fellowship for the young ladies in our village. They were also instrumental in helping our church’s youth prepare and lead the ongoing kids’ club meetings in our neighboring community. Both ministries have continued since they returned to the States, because people are following the patterns they set while they volunteered here with us.All of these “short-term” missionaries have left a long-term impact in our community! They strengthened our hands as career missionaries as they used their skills and abilities for the kingdom of God in Albania!
Only in eternity will we see the full dividends from the investments made this summer by short-term missionaries in Albania. But based on the returns we have already seen in this short time, the answer to the question “Was it worth it?” is a resounding YES!