Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why Not Just Send Money?

I was not big fan of mission trips. I saw many of them as “mission tourism,” designed more for the purpose of giving North Americans an exotic experience that had the additional benefit of pumping up their sense of Christian commitment.  I encouraged my church members to send money to support missionaries who lived on the field or to fund projects in faraway places. 

In the summer of 1998 I went to lunch at a fellow pastor’s house in Ohio, where I met Ketly and Vital Pierre, International Ministries-ABC/USA missionaries to Nicaragua.  I watched a video about their ministry and was captured by a sudden sense of calling.  I thought to myself:  My church needs to go on a mission trip; this would be a small thing for us to do.  I shared this with my mission committee.  (Actually I said that I was going on a mission trip; if anyone from the church wanted to go with me, they were welcome to do so.)  The following Spring twenty-three of us went to Mexicali to work with Tim and Patty Long at the Dios con Nostros Seminario.  We were all changed by the experience.  Four years after the trip, Debbie and I, along with our two sons, were on our way to Europe to begin service as International Ministries-ABC/USA missionaries. One of the teenagers from the Mexicali trip went on to serve overseas with Campus Crusade for two years after college.  The effects of that trip continued to ripple through the lives of those who went. 

During the trip, I was struck by how glad the Mexican pastors and students seemed to be that we had come.  Simply sending money would not have been the same for them.   I had not expected that.

Fast forward 9 years:  Debbie and I are now in Italy working with Nigerian and Ghanaian immigrants and are receiving mission groups wanting to participate in our ministry.  The first group that came to Italy was from my first church in Philadelphia.  Again, I am wondering:  Is this a good use of their resources and our time?  Many of our congregations and the people in them were in need of many things.  The Italian Baptists, themselves, had profound financial needs.  I struggled with the cost of fifteen North Americans coming to Italy for 10 days to work with people and churches who could not afford some of the most basic things of life.

I was amazed at the effect this mission team had on our people and their churches.  The congregations were delighted to think that people would travel to Italy to work with them.  They were mightily encouraged and received a tremendous blessing from these temporary visitors.  Each time a group came, the effect was the same.  The teams preached, sponsored conferences, and counseled with individuals; but the most important ministry they practiced was the gift of their presence.  The North Americans who participated in those trips were changed, I am sure; but the people they met in Italy and the churches in which they worshiped were changed as well, of this I am sure.  I no longer questioned the value of mission trips.

8 in 10 Nicaraguans lack access to clean water
Fast forward again to April 2015:   New York Baptists will go to Nicaragua to work with a rural village, setting up biosand water filters.  These filters have been incredibly effective in saving the lives of babies and children and improving the overall health of communities.  Eight out of ten Nicaraguans lack access to clean water. This raises the infant mortality rate and damages the health of everyone, particularly in a country where five out of ten people lack access to health care.  Our trip will be led by Dr. Roberto Martinez, a Nicaraguan physician who works with the AMOS Ministry (A Ministry of Sharing) founded by Drs. Laura and David Parajon, International Ministries-ABC/USA missionaries in Nicaragua.  Dr. Martinez is currently working on a Masters in Public Health in Syracuse. 

How can you participate?  
  • One, you can pray about going on the trip.  The trip in April 2015 will be the first of a three-year partnership with the Parajons’ ministry.  If not next year, perhaps you could go on one of the following two trips.  
  • Two, you can make a contribution to offset the $6000 of material costs involved in setting up these filters; this will reduce the per-person cost for those who do go.  Or, you could provide sponsorship assistance to someone who is able to go on the trip.  
  • Three, you can approach someone you know who might be interested in going and invite them to consider participating.  
  • Four, you can pray for the safety and health of those who will be going.  You can pray that transformative relationships will be established between us and our brothers and sisters in Nicaragua.  You can pray for Drs. Laura and David Paragon and Dr. Martinez as they minister through the AMOS ministry.

You can find more information on the ABC/NYS website at http://www.abc-nys.org/programs/missions/nicaragua.   Dr. Martinez and I are glad to come to your church or Association or any other gathering to share about this opportunity to grow in our faith and serve our Lord.  You can call me at (315)469-4236 (ext. 14) or email me at jkelsey@abc-nys.org.

If you would like to make a financial contribution to the trip, please send it to the Region office or give online and clearly mark your contribution “Waters of Blessing Trip.”

Jim Kelsey
Executive Minister, American Baptist Churches of New York State

We are agents of change in our communities.  If we have hope we can save some lives.  If we have no hope, we will fall frustrated.  We choose the walk of hope.
-Juan de Dios Blanden

Health Promoter