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 information@cwomissions.org. We’re here to help!

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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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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