Short-Term Teams – What’s Next?

As I travel back home from a trip to Zimbabwe I cannot help but think about short-term team members returning home from mission trips.  The question that should be on the minds of all short-term team members is, “What’s next?”  How have I changed?  Where do I go from here?  What do I do with this experience?

I mentioned in blog #2 that the CWO team application asks the question, “How do you plan to use this experience when you return home?”  I am not sure most team members really know how to answer this question, but hopefully it makes each person begin thinking about the next step after returning home even before they leave on their trip.

To me the most important part of team training is about returning home.  Not that preparing is less important, but I think we all expect to have some culture shock when going to another country because in some way we know it will be different than our daily lives at home.  We go prepared to experience different foods, language, lifestyles and to see that not everyone has everything they want or need.

I do not think we expect to have culture shock when we return home.  We do not think about the change that has happened to us.  We do not think about our world view being changed and how that will affect our return home.  We do not always realize that we have changed during our short-term trip, but we have.  We expect to go back to something familiar but that is the time when we come to the realization that we have changed through our experience.

Preparing for our return home by understanding we have changed and thinking about what we will do with this experience will make the transition back home much easier.  It will help in setting our expectations for ourselves and for others as we return to our homes, our work or school, and our family and friends as a changed person.

We try to help CWO team members by setting their expectations of what it will be like to return home.  Returning team members should expect to deal with some level of adjustment and they should give themselves some time to process all they have experienced.  Each team member needs to remember that they are the one who had this experience so they should not expect others to understand the change or get frustrated when people no longer want to hear about their trip or look at all the pictures they took.

What you need to do is be honest in how you feel but have patience with others as you try to explain the change in you.  It is always helpful to stay in contact with other team members because they will understand what you have experienced and will know how to pray for you during this adjustment.

What’s next?  It will be different for each of us as we process the experience we have had serving on a short-term team.  Some will take this experience and be better stewards of what God has given them.  Some will use this experience to advocate for those who are in need.  Some will serve as volunteers or become staff members for the organization they served with during their trip.  And just maybe some will become long-term missionaries.

So, as you consider being a part of a short-term team, begin preparing now.  Go to God first, check your motivation, research organizations, set your expectations, and get ready for God to change your life.

If you are interested in joining a CWO short-term trip or have a group that is interested in serving. Contact us at We’re here to help!

Short-Term Teams – You better shop around

Part 2 – Participant Responsibility and Preparation

If you are considering participating in a short-term trip, you have some responsibilities before you choose where you are going and who you are going with to serve.  You should examine your intentions as you begin thinking about your purpose in going.  You should check into the organization you plan to go with before signing up.

When considering participating in a mission trip the first thing each individual should ask is, “Is God calling me to go and serve?”  Yeah, I know it would be nice if God always spoke to us verbally and we could physically hear Him say, “John go serve two week in Kenya!”  This is a whole topic in itself.  What you need to do before going on a short-term mission trip is take some time to pray, asking God to give you direction in where He wants you to serve and to help you have wisdom in choosing an organization to serve with as you go.  If you do not feel God calling you to go, then do not go.

The CWO application has a couple questions to help potential team members think about the desire to go on a short-term trip.  “Why do you wish to go on this mission opportunity?” is the first question that addresses this.  Asking yourself why you want to go can help you determine if God wants you to go.  If you are going just to check it off your bucket list of things to do or places to go, then do not go.  I have had team members go for this reason and it is quickly evident they are not interested in going to serve but ready to go on their next “adventure.”  Their interest is seeing the world and not serving with those in the country they are visiting.

I do need to add that if you are going just so you can get to the country where a child you sponsor lives, do not go.  I know the desire to see that child you have sponsored for many years is strong but if this is why you are going your motive is selfish.  I have seen team members sit around and not participate in the activities of the team just waiting to visit their sponsored child.  The saddest part is knowing that this selfish act has caused a hardship on the child’s family because they need to miss work and sometimes travel for a whole day just to bring the child to visit.

Another question we ask on the application is, “How do you plan to use this experience when you return home?”  This may seem like an odd question before you leave but again it may help you know what your motive is for going on this trip.  A short-term trip is a good way to test your ability to function cross-culturally, especially if you are thinking about serving long-term.

This is a great way to get a glimpse of what long-term missionaries deal with on a day to day basis, helping you know how to pray for them.  It can also help you know the real needs so that you understand what financial support is helpful.  I have seen people go on a different short-term trip every year each time with a different organization and to a different country.  They do not have a desire to understand and learn but, again, are checking it off their list.

It is your responsibility to set your expectations before going.  The beginning of setting your expectations is to investigate any organization you might go to serve with on a trip.  Ask lots of questions before applying for a trip.  If you do not get any clear answers you may want to look somewhere else for a place to serve.  I would ask for a reference of someone who has already gone with the organization.  They will be able to help you know what to expect when going to serve.

A short-term trip should be viewed as a learning experience.  Be ready to go observe and ask questions (when appropriate).  This is not a time to sit back and relax but a time to study the culture around you, investing time with those you are working with and serving alongside them.  Begin building relationships that can last and grow as you serve.  This can seem like a lot of hard work but it will be well worth it as you return home and reflect on what God has taught you through your short-term trip.

What’s next?  In part three about short-term trips we will look at what happens when you get home.

Short Term Teams – the Good & the Bad

Part 1 (the sending organizations responsibility)

Greg Yoder participated in the first Christian World Outreach (CWO) work team that served in Johnstown, Pennsylvania after the flood of 1977.  He then served on the first team to Haiti in 1978 that held a youth camp.  After graduating from college he served in Haiti from 1980 to 1988. He taught at Quisqueya Christian School and prepared for short-term teams to come to Haiti in the summers for 3 ½ years and then worked full time as the CWO administrator.  After moving back to the States he connected with CWO by serving on the board and leading teams. In 2003 he began working part-time leading CWO teams and then began working in the US headquarters in 2005 where he now serves as CWO’s president.

There continues to be a debate about whether short-term mission trips do much good.  You have probably seen posts on Facebook or received an email with a website link about all the negative things associated with short-term mission trips. You have also probably read stories or talked to a friend about how a short-term team has had a positive effect.  I must admit I have been a part of teams that fall under both extremes and hopefully have learned something from those experiences.

It is healthy for every organization that participates in sending short-term missions to struggle with this question for each team that goes out to serve.  After all, the buck stops with the organization that offers short-term trips because they are the link between those receiving a team and those going.  It is their responsibility to make sure they are making a trip meaningful and useful to those receiving a team.  It is also their responsibility to make it a positive learning and growing experience for the team members going to serve.

The sending organization should first know those who are receiving a team.  They should have a good enough working relationship so that they get an honest answer to the usefulness of teams.  They should know the culture well enough to know if they are being told “yes bring teams” just because those asked are being polite or if they really want / need a team to come.  The sending organization should also make sure that they include those receiving a team in the planning, the fundraising, and that they participate in the project.

I have asked our in-country staff if it is beneficial to have teams come and the response has always been yes.  They have said that it is an “encouragement” to have teams take time to come and serve alongside them, and they know that it helps those who support the ministry in prayer and financially to see firsthand what they support.

Usually any negative reaction to short-term missions is partly because the American comes in as the “expert” in everything, works alone on the project and believes they are the only ones who can get the project done.  Because of this we can create a group of people who sit back and watch the Americans work without saying a word.  They will not tell the “guest” that the project is not something wanted or needed and so the time and money spent on this trip is wasted.

I have seen some unused playgrounds that teams have felt were needed when the real need was for desks and other classroom needs.  I have seen a room full of discarded toys left over after picking out the useful donated items like pencils, pens, rulers, notebooks, etc.  I know of a building built that goes unused because it was built American style.  I know of equipment that has been installed but never used because those receiving it do not know how to use it or the replacement parts are not available locally.  I have also seen teams viewed as just a way to receive the funds to complete a project.

The solution is to start with the sending organization building a long-term relationship with those they serve and then for them to understand the real need of those receiving a team.  This relationship would be one built on trust and promote open and honest discussions about teams.  It is best that those receiving a team are part of the planning so they have ownership and the project is accepted as theirs.  One other way to help them take ownership is to have those receiving a team invest something in the project by raising funds or bringing supplies.  Because this is not typically asked of those receiving a team it may seem odd but it is acceptable.

It goes without saying, or maybe not, that the receivers and the team members work side-by-side on the project.  This brings both sides together and helps build relationships that can last longer than any building or other project that a short-term mission team could participate in.

CWO has been a part of short-term mission trips for almost 40 years.  We have made mistakes along the way and have learned from those mistakes.  Our goal is to make short-term mission trips a part of the ministry to encourage both those receiving a team and those going and to be a part of the existing ministries.

More about short-term mission teams and the team member’s responsibilities and preparation on the next blog post.

The Gospel Breaks those Chains of Evil – Part 5

It is Valentine’s Day, 1980.

I am so happy to have my own little apt in Petionville, Haiti.  There is no A/C and it is hot, but I can open the windows.  Sometimes I have running water, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I have electricity, sometimes I don’t. The chameleons get inside, so do the cockroaches.  That’s life in Haiti.

CWO now has a beautiful office.  It took 6 months to get this office.  Things move slowly in Haiti.

LeRoy Dick arrived to start CWOs literacy program.  Five young, Haitian adults were trained in teaching literacy, now that Leroy has returned to the states, I will follow up.

How do I describe what it is like to watch a 14 young old girl with a baby, no home, no education, no job – learn to read and write?  She starts to put the sounds together, then those sounds become words, and then she associates those words with the things of life.  Wow! One of our literacy students passed a piece of paper to me, on it was written Mathude Usma.  It was the first time she had written her name.  I will never forget that name, nor the pride on her face. This will abundantly improve their lives.  She can get a job. Her children will learn to read and write. She will be able to read her Bible. I love this!

In Phys Ed class, one of my students, Kathleen, told me the following story:  Her father died a year ago and they attribute his death to a voodoo curse. He was visiting in the states and someone from Haiti mailed him a voodoo symbol.  A week later he died.  I was able to share with her that through Christ there is power over Satan.  She wanted to know what it meant to be a Christian and I had the opportunity to share with her.

Haiti is saturated with the evil and power of voodoo, it permeates the culture.  There is Mardi Gras, a voodoo emblem hanging from a tree to scare away evil from a garden, the fear of death, the sounds of the voodoo drums… But the power of the Gospel breaks those chains of evil.


Love is a Bridge – Part 4

I have been here for six months (May 1980). It hasn’t been easy. There have been several times when God and I have had a conversation where I have said, “it is a good thing I know You sent me here or I would leave.”  Of course, God didn’t say it would be easy, but He promised He would be with me as I go through my daily life here.

I wonder if friends and family know how encouraging it is when I receive mail. Do my financial and prayer supporters know how much I appreciate them? I travel back to the US for Christmas. I am so excited to visit family and friends. The last 6 months have changed me. How do I explain what it is like?

The precious faces of the children, I will miss seeing them.


It is Jan 6 and tomorrow I fly back to Haiti. It has been wonderful to be home in PA.  When my sister, Sharon visited me in Haiti, she wrote a poem, I would like to share it with you.

Love is a Bridge
by Sharon Pasquariello

Staring black faces
That question our presence.
Where did we come from?
Why are we here?
They stop in their footsteps
And intensely look on
Hoping to find out
Just what’s going on.
Their sparkling eyes
That continuously ask why
See an answer forthcoming
In a person’s soft smile.
Their faces start forming
A hesitant smile
That’s pleading for love
And a heart that will care.
Language is a barrier
That’s hard to cross over
But love is a bridge
That can overcome all.

Staring black faces
Lining the streets
With heavy loads mounted
On top of their heads.
Their bodies move gracefully
Flowing along
Over mountains of feelings
Through rivers of needs
Across deserts of heartaches
And valleys of fears.
And over the barrier of language
That’s hard to cross over.
Yes, love is a bridge
That can overcome all,
The questions, the heartaches,
The staring black faces
Will understand love
God’s language of all.


Reaching out in rural Haiti – Part 3

It is November 1979. Living in a foreign country can be lonely, especially when special holidays are approaching. It is so encouraging when I have visitors.  My sister, Sharon and two friends, Melaina and Laura came to visit.  It was so fun to show them this country and her beautiful people.

Learning a different language is not easy. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever learn it.  I spend countless hours studying, memorizing and practicing. I wasn’t expecting this learning process to be so frustrating.

An unexpected ministry opened up, teaching phys ed to the female students at Quisqueya Christian School. Some of the students are missionary kids, some are children of the elite class.  CWO realizes the need to minister to all classes, the poor and the wealthy.  I am excited to develop a relationship with these young women.

I continue visiting the youth from our camps, traveling through cities to the winding roads up the mountains. It is humbling to visit our youth in their homes, huts with thatched roofs and shacks with tin roofs. They are excited that I would spend time with them. It is always a blessed experience for me.  I long to learn their language, Creole, so I can really communicate.

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“In as much as you have done unto the least of these …” – Part 2

This blog post is the second in a series of reflections from Karen Pasquariello, CWO’s first missionary in Haiti.

It is Sept 1979. At times I am overwhelmed by the endless needs of those around me.  Living in the poorest county in the Western Hemisphere, is not easy. The needs and the heat beat the strength out of me. Today an elderly Haitian woman walked up to me. She had tears streaming down her face and was obviously in pain. She lifted her shirt and showed me her open wound. Her insides were pushing out through the opening. I drove her to the hospital and provided the money for her to see the doctor and for treatment.

Now it is 2016, 37 years later. As I reflect on that experience, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to serve as a missionary with CWO and for God’s word, “in as much as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me”


Thoughts from CWO’s First Missionary – Part 1

Karen Pasquariello was CWO’s first missionary living in Haiti from 1979 to 1981 and then again for a time in 1982. She recently shared her words and photos of that special time learning about Haiti and sharing about Jesus. We’re grateful to be able to share this multi-part blog post from Karen.

It was August 1979, I was sitting on a mountainside in Haiti. I could see the capital, Port-au-Prince, the azure blue Caribbean in the distance and miles of mountains.  Someone once said of Haiti, “behind mountains are more mountains.”  I went to the mountains to escape the hustle and bustle and blistering heat of the city. I took with me my Creole book so I could study the language.  Then they came. At first, they peeked around the bushes, one child after another, curious about this blonde, female blanc (white person).  Their clothes were torn, one little girl had a man’s shirt on, hanging in shreds.  One had the reddish hair of malnutrition. A little girl was scared, but she cautiously stepped closer and before long crawled onto my lap.  They laughed as I practiced my Creole with them.  It was a tender memory. I remember the wise words of Dean Yoder. He once told me when you look at the children and no longer feel compassion, it is time to leave.  I am thankful that compassion continues to dwell in me to this day.

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“Killer hurricane with 50 foot waves sweeps the island of Haiti … Worst hurricane in a century!” This was the news forecast in the U.S. My family and friends didn’t know if I was dead or alive.

Raised in PA, we didn’t have hurricanes. The Haitian house I lived in was very open so I stayed with friends. We listened to the radio, tracking the storm, huddled in one room surrounded by supplies of food, water, blankets, and mattresses for protection in case the roof was torn off.

In the midst of a raging storm, what thoughts go through one’s head? Will we be hit? What about the Haitians who live in thatched roof huts and houses on stilts? How will they survive?  I was surprised by the peace I felt.  My parents were back in PA praying for the survival of their daughter.  They couldn’t reach me by phone and feared the worse.  But then my mother, as she prayed, had the same peace I was feeling.  She said to my dad, “God sent her to Haiti, there is no safer place for her to be than in the center of Gods will.” Hurricane David steered away from our little island, we escaped the devastation of a direct hit.  Thank you Lord!

God, the giver of peace, even in the eye of the storm.

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Team CWO Scored Big at this Year’s Banquet!

This year’s banquet was filled with team spirit and excitement around ministry!  Guests enjoyed popcorn, lemonade and a fun game informing them about the four countries where CWO works. As has become our tradition, Haitian vanilla was available for purchase. Brand new CWO shirts were available for sale, all featuring the new CWO logo. (Go to our Current Campaigns page to shop for your CWO team shirt!)  A tasty tailgate-like buffet meal gave guests an opportunity to visit over dinner. Donated sports items, like a Broncos jacket and Rockies tickets, were given out during a drawing from guests who participated in the CWO game during the social hour. Following an invocation by Torrey House from Creekside Church, an introduction to the ministry in Burkina Faso kicked off the program. Alassane and Dina Compaore spoke about how both the Village of Opportunity and Mobile Clinic are growing and how grateful they are for Team CWO. Greg Yoder, CWO President, gave an update on ministries in Haiti, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The highlight of the evening was when Jerry Schemmel gave a powerful, mission-focused testimonial to end the evening. CWO is grateful for the approximate $60,000 in donations and pledges we received at the banquet.

Whether all-stars or game-changing rookies, everyone is a member of God’s team and a vital part of Team CWO!

As we enter into 2017 we look forward to more opportunities to win over others for God’s team and working together in ministry. Thank you for supporting CWO through prayer, volunteering, advocating and financially supporting our work. We look forward to making 2017 a championship year!


After Hurricane Matthew … What Now for CWO?

Hurricane Matthew was a slow-moving, powerful storm that hit Haiti hard this past week. As has been the case so many times before in Haiti, there is no shortage of need. From medical attention, clean water and food to clearing roads and re-building, recovery will likely be long and complicated. We grieve with those affected by the storm and pray that God will show Himself to those in need.

CWO has ministered in Haiti for more than 35 years. It’s important to note that we are not solely a relief organization. God has given us opportunities to work alongside our Haitian friends and bring Christ to many. Sometimes that takes the form of providing medical attention or rebuilding following disasters. And sometimes it is by providing education or a hot meal for a child. Whatever form it takes, we’re grateful for God’s provision, the relationships we’ve developed and the partnerships that have come from our time working in Haiti.

CWO specializes in making a difference in the lives we touch and in making a difference for eternity. If that means helping a partner organization with immediate needs after the hurricane, we will be there. Our vision is to be in Haiti for the long haul, through recovery, as people need to hear the Good News and if Haiti faces yet another disaster. We are committed to serving in Haiti and recognizing the tremendous potential of this place and its people. If you want to help support recovery efforts, you can give to CWO by clicking the DONATE button above and selecting Disaster Relief under the Haiti menu option.

Thank you for recognizing and supporting CWO’s unique and necessary role in not only helping with the recovery effort but in building a future for Haiti for now and eternity!