I won’t be surprised if someone says to us one day, “Wait a second, you guys don’t really mobilize mission trips at all!” Unknowingly, they’ve just put their finger on exactly what distinguishes 127 Worldwide from other traditional “sending” organizations.
Consider for a moment the type of short-term mission trips you’ve come into contact with in the past. I’ve traveled around the world many times on 2-week stints, and I always emphasized to my supporters the direct role I would play on the mission field. A string of active verbs knit my story to the stories of the least of these. I evangelized, I built, I distributed. The photographs from my trips reinforced this point. You’d see me giving food to the hungry, painting a schoolhouse, and sharing the gospel. This philosophy of short-term mission trippers who directly care for the vulnerable and reach out to the lost has its own strengths and weaknesses, just like every other method. We explore some common objections to short-term missions elsewhere. Suffice to say, this model hinges on the volunteer’s direct, measurable impact.
127 has a different model. It might be terrible math, but we think that we can actually accomplish more for the vulnerable by doing less for them directly. Faithful Christians have labored in their contexts long before our team arrives, and we want to aid that gospel work in ways that help without hindering the mission already happening. We champion local solutions to local problems, so we don’t show up with the intent to accomplish ministry ourselves so much as to encourage, equip, and empower those already hard at work. 127 GO Teams channel care to the caretakers, and in doing so, our investment continues to impact the lives of vulnerable people long after our visit.
Sending a team to serve in a foreign context can be like tossing a pebble into a pond. The ripples from the pebble disrupt the surface, triggering a series of waves that emanate from the splash. At 127, we want to think seriously about what long-term ripples out involvement causes. We evaluate how receiving food from an outsider might communicate that solutions need to be imported, while receiving the same meal from a neighbor highlights that a community is capable of change. We weigh how employing a local carpenter to build a house can provide income for his family that is lost if a team of foreigners does the construction. We remember how powerful it is to hear the gospel from someone who grew up just around the corner.
A Partnership Model
Because our partners live in the community, know its needs intimately, and are actively engaged in ongoing projects to empower the vulnerable, we funnel our resources and energy into encouraging them. We don’t strike out on our own mission to save the world. We join the work that God has already begun, which means ultimately our ministry is one of presence and not intervention. By traveling around the world, we communicate to local leaders that the global church rallies behind them in the good deeds that God has called them to. Our care may be indirect, but we believe it’s the most powerful role we can play.
The Bible presents God’s work in the world as the grand unfolding of a drama in which he brings his kingdom to earth. He will make all things right, and he commissions his church to join him in restoring hope to a broken world. He’s casted a host of actors, believers from all corners of the earth. And as they each play the role assigned to them, he is bodily present in their midst caring for the vulnerable and proclaiming that the kingdom is here.
If our partners are the leading actors in God’s drama in the places they live, 127 GO Teams are the stage hands. We’ll never star in the play, and no one will stay to see our names in the credits. But East Africa and Guatemala were never meant to be our stage anyway. The Director cast our partners there and us halfway around the world, all armed with his script. He’s written every scene, and he orchestrates its performance through his people.
And that’s where our part comes in. We jump in to refresh the actors he’s cast on this stage, spurring on the gospel work they do day in and day out. In a way, then, we do serve directly. It’s just targeted at local leaders rather than vulnerable communities. As believers ministering to other believers, we act as the global church united around God’s mission of restoring hope to all of creation as it plays out on the big screen. We eagerly await the day when all will acknowledge his work, every knee bowing and tongue confessing that he has done it.