Short term mission exploring a long term partnership
It is ironic that in an age of globalisation where social media allows immediate contact with just about anyone, we still struggle to be connected to others. What I mean by ‘connected’ is not to do with being plugged in to what’s going on in the world but the ability to be yourself with someone else. This is surely something we all desire, to feel we can be honest and open with someone, knowing they can be the same with us. Partnership is birthed when there is a connection between two people or two organisations. Of course, in business, contracts have to be written up and negotiated carefully to ensure both parties will benefit, but in marriage, this partnership is formed out of a connection that can be called ‘love’ where both people work together willingly, simply because they love the other person. They work for the good of the other because they love them. Naturally with this love, comes affection and a passion for the other.
When reading the beginning of Philippians, we hear Paul give thanks to God because of his partnership with the church there. Paul has such a deep partnership with this church that by just remembering them he is compelled to ‘give thanks’ (ch1v3). This partnership is birthed because they are individuals connected by the Gospel, something that can bring together people from different backgrounds and cause them to work together joyfully.
When Heidi and I went out to Sierra Leone to visit Robert Street Baptist Church, we experienced this Gospel partnership. When you meet a church who has experienced the same love from Jesus as you, you begin to yearn for them with the affections of Christ (ch1v8), not birthed from yourself but by the Gospel and for the Gospel.
We had a wonderful week with Robert Street, seeing their desire to reach the local community and having the privilege of working in partnership to help them do this. Running a Holiday Club in the morning for the children, where they were taught what it means to be ‘salt and light’, along with seminars in the evening for the adults on the same theme, helped us to focus the week on how we could be ‘good news’ to the world around us.
With all this said and with it only being an eight-day trip, it can be hard to evaluate what impact this trip will have had. Following the advice in Darren Carlson’s article Toward Better Short term missions, our itinerary was put together around what the leaders of Robert Street Baptist thought would help the church.
As this article also points out, although our trip was short our partnership with this church does not have to be. When you see God at work in another community and experience their love for each other, you feel affection for them and when I have a spare minute of the day to think back to our time with Robert Street, it leads me to prayer and thankfulness for an ongoing relationship.
As time goes by, continuing this relationship could be challenging. We hope that by sharing with CRBC about this partnership, it will grow from a few people who visited a church to the whole of CRBC supporting the church; that on a regular basis, we will be praying for the brothers and sisters at Robert Street and considering how we can support them practically in the future.
To see how this partnership continues, long into the future, watch this space…
Tim Allen (Community Pastor)
 The Gospel Coalition, Darren Carlson ‘Toward Better Short term missions’ July 2012< https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/toward-better-short-term-missions > [Accessed: 28 September 2017]