International (MNN) — Did you know you can take an international mission trip without leaving home? The concept is new at e3 Partners, but the ongoing global pandemic has forced their ministry to think outside the box – and they’re encouraged by the results.
e3 Partners’ virtual mission trips connect you or your group with a mission team. Together, you spend several days virtually engaging with missionaries in another country, going on virtual prayer walks, learning the culture, and supporting their needs.
Claudia Adame, e3 Partners’ Executive Vice President of Mission Support, says they are used to long-distance collaboration as an international ministry. But they wanted to be intentional in this time of social distancing and travel restrictions.
“The vision, mission, and strategy of e3 haven’t changed,” Adame says. “So how do we do this now in a world that’s a little bit more long-distance because we cannot be there physically?”
They launched virtual mission trips around the idea of “self-paced missions engagement.”
Adame explains, “Because we’re going to be in community for one or two weeks, we want to get to know each other. What brought you to this trip? What are the things that compelled you to want to be a part of what’s happening in Greece or Uganda or Peru? So that way, we start building community.
“Immediately also, we set up some kind of group chat — whether it’s text or email or WhatsApp — so that from the very beginning, it’s not only that we [have] self-paced engagement in a lot of this, but we also stay very connected through these groups. We’re texting each other, encouraging one another, praying for one another, and sharing pictures.”
The virtual prayer walks have been another successful hit. Using a virtual map and other programs, mission team members can feel like they are in the community they are serving and can physically see the area and people they are praying for as they trek.
Adame says e3 Partners also tries to have a little fun along the way. “If we’re going to Greece, [we suggest] some sites where you can find some Greek meal recipes so they can do meal preparation with their family. They have a lot of fun engaging the kids and other members of the family. Sometimes, we ask them to do a dance challenge where they’re trying to learn the local dance, local music, local customs, and just live it out in their family for a couple of days.
“What we try to do is engage as many senses as possible so it’s not just one more virtual meeting, but it’s an actual trip experience.”
But possibly the most meaningful part of the virtual mission trip is the relationships team members build with the local missionaries they are supporting and praying for. Via virtual meeting platforms, e3 Partners coordinates real-time interactions between the team and local missionaries.
If a real-time meeting is not possible, missionaries can record a video for the team and share how God used their prayers that day. The team can watch the video later and see the difference their prayers made.
Now that they have finished their first virtual mission trips, e3 Partners sees that encouragement and relational connections don’t suffer over the long distance between team members and missionaries.
“The one we did to Greece recently, we had a pretty sizable group…. I’ll tell you, this team totally fell in love with our local missionaries there and got to know his family. They are still in communication.”
As for the future of these virtual mission trips, Adame says, “We believe that this is a keeper. God is showing us He took us outside of the norm and that compelling call to continue the vision and the practice of the Great Commission, saying, ‘This is just going to look different right now.’ So we have found that this is a way to engage a lot more people, to engage whole families. Those who give and pray and support missions in other ways, they can actually experience this. So the future is definitely to keep doing these virtual mission trips.”
Ultimately, just like any other missional endeavors, e3 Partners’ virtual mission trips are all about seeing the Gospel spread and God glorified both at home and abroad.
“We do want them to learn how to share their story, how to share God’s story, and then how to engage in discipleship…. But also, one of our goals is for them to learn this is something that can be very natural and part of life so that after the virtual trip experience, it can just be part of their rhythm [and] part of what they do with family.”
There are several ways you can get involved! For example, you can get a group together among your friends, family, church, or small group. Or a virtual mission trip could be just the international, Gospel-oriented experience your homeschooling curriculum needs. You can even sign up by yourself and enjoy being part of a new team!
Upcoming virtual mission trip destinations include Nigeria, North India, Honduras, and Greece. Click here for the full list of upcoming virtual mission trips with e3 Partners!
To learn more about virtual mission trips, email e3 Partners at [email protected]
Header image courtesy of e3 Partners.