International (MNN) — It’s when life gets tricky that you find out who’s got your back. Bumps in the road remind us how important friends are.
Consider what it would look like to emphasize friendship in the mission field.
That’s what Del Camino Connection is doing, stepping away from the “what” (outcome) of short-term missions in order to focus on the “how.”
How you do missions
Dee Yaccino is the co-director of Del Camino Connection (DCC), a ministry operating through a network of churches in the United States and around the world. She discusses how important friendships are in the mission field today.
Because of their brief nature, short-term mission trips too easily fall into a transactional pattern: mission team gets in, builds a house or runs a clinic, talks about Jesus, and gets out. For their labors, they’ve received a new perspective on life. It’s unlikely that the two groups of people will ever meet again.
When this pattern is the foundation of short-term missions, it can lead to dependent and utilitarian interactions rather than true friendships between two different cultures or groups of people.
Yaccino says meeting physical need is important, but that there could be a better way to do it in light of the changing mission field.
As time goes on, more people hear about Jesus, and more churches are established. It’s rare to visit an area that has no Gospel ministry at all. As the infrastructure of God’s people grows, it gives us the unique advantage in our day to establish something long-term as the foundation of short-term missions.
It is now possible for groups like Del Camino Connection to partner with local churches in order to establish lasting friendships that truly impact communities instead of providing temporary fixes.
Being friends changes everything
When ministries begin to look at their targets groups as friends and not lowly and needy people, two very important aspects of ministry change for the better.
For starters, Yaccino says, you have to give people their proper identity.
She says when you look at a person in need, your attitude should be something like this: “I see you, the human being, that potential of worth and dignity in your own right, and I love what you’re doing, and I want to see that it happens more.”
Not only does this attitude help us see great value in the people we serve, but it also encourages them to change their own lives for the better.
“That’s life-giving, rather than kind of like, “Oh I see you, I don’t really even know you’re name but I see that you’re poor and you need this. I’ve got these resources; watch me do this for you.”
Structurally, this mode of operation helps, too. By working with local churches, DCC is able to help communities solve underlying problems of poverty, disease, and the like.
Short-term missions, then, help realize projects like building houses, digging wells, and holding health clinics. These projects become a byproduct of a friendship instead of being the main focus of missions. Short-term missions become part of a long-term solution.
“So when we shift the perspective from being transactional in our partnerships to being relational in our partnerships, it changes everything because then we are actually operating from within a framework of the Kingdom of God rather than a framework of the kingdom of this world,” Yaccino says.
The short-term is part of the long-term
If you’re looking at the physical outcome of the way DCC does things and the way short-term mission trips tend to be, Yaccino says there is a subtle difference. Even so, it’s a big deal. These outcomes–the number of people helping, how many wells are dug, etc.–are part of an investment with other Christians and the work they are doing to help the poor and share the Gospel.
“For me,” Yaccino says, “it really is a picture of the global Body of Christ. It’s a matter of [needing] to relate to one another. We do need to show the world what it looks like when people from different walks of life who are in different socioeconomic contexts–who are ethnically different, who are culturally different, who are racially different–come together in a way that is different, significantly different from the way that the world comes together.”
Yaccino says when people will see unity in God’s disciples, it can help them better see God. This unity can break tensions and bring reconciliation in a world fraught with hurt and conflict.
DCC is doing what it can to make every moment and every interaction on the mission field count. To learn more about their ministry, click here.