Let’s Go

by Judith McKeown

Judith is the administrator for GLO Mission Trips and serves with Friends International reaching out to students.

The 2023 GLO summer team programme consisted of 12 teams running throughout Europe and the UK. There were teams in Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Romania and the UK. A variety of gospel outreach activities, including: practical work in a newly acquired church building in Albania; English language classes in Eastern Europe; using art as an evangelistic tool in Hungary; and children’s and community outreach in Ireland, Norway and Romania took place. Each year we ask team members for feedback from which we seek to draw some lessons and encouragements.

Part of a Bigger Church

It’s always encouraging to see how churches and individuals build relationships over the years. Two teams went to Albania, one to Romania and one to Italy. Each involved a church from the UK taking a team to visit and partner with a church in Europe. For many people it was their first time on a team. In their feedback, one leader said that this partnership is ‘great encouragement for the locals inspirational for the members.’ In the long term, this type of partnership will lead to consistent prayerful and practical support for those who host the teams and a passion for mission will have been planted in the hearts of team members. One of our summer teams went to Dömös, Hungary. The programme there focused mainly on children’s outreach and this particular outreach has been ongoing for 14 years. The team leader reports that the person now leading the children’s work in Dömös came to a children’s club when it first started. This is encouraging for those who have invested in this village for many years and shows the value of returning to the same location year after year. Another summed it up well when they said, ‘It was great to see the GLO teamwork in partnership with our church and young people from our community the good news of Jesus with so many kids.’

An encouragement for me was seeing team leaders I had grown up with and with whom I had gone on short-term mission, take their own church youth group to Romania. This is a great way to expose young people to mission for the first time. Working with a group of people they already know and trust, they get to try things they have never done before in a safe environment. They may, for example, share their testimony in front of an audience, tell a story at a kids’ club or perhaps begin to develop and discover what their gifts are. It’s encouraging to see the baton being passed on to the next generation.

Talents & Skills for His Glory

For the first time, we had a GLO team focused on using art as an evangelistic tool. Luca Illianio1 led this event and was hosted by fellow GLO workers Robert and Esme Lemperger in Eger, Hungary. Luca organised art workshops as a form of gospel outreach and on the final day the team held an art exhibition for the local community. It’s always good to try and think outside the box. Some of us are more creative than others and it’s exciting when people begin to realise that they can use their passions, talents and the things they enjoy to bring glory to God. Undoubtedly, for a short-term mission to work well, the focus must be clear and having a team with a specific focus, like this one, worked well. Using our God-given talents and abilities, what other types of activities could be effective? There is certainly much to consider as to how we might serve in mission.

As ever, children’s outreach remains a great way of sharing the gospel and making lasting connections with families in a community. A team member told us, ‘I helped out on the GLO team in Enniscorthy, 150 kids came and…some asked me questions about the Lord and how He can talk to us through His Word and through other people.’ The strength of children’s work is that it has a clear focus, is relationship based and can be a springboard for other outreach. The team leader from the Crescent Church, Belfast, whose team was particularly community focused said, ‘It was wonderful to see so many visitors come into the Crescent from the surrounding neighbourhood. We are praying that the conversations had and relationships started would bear fruit.’

it’s exciting when people begin to realise that they can use their passions, talents and the things they enjoy to bring glory to God.

Meeting an individual’s needs can also create a gospel opportunity. In the Czech Republic, two teams, one in Sázava and the other in Prague were particularly focused on teaching English. Then invitations were extended to outreach events, which built on those relationships that had been formed. When Moses doubted his ability, God said, ‘What is that in your hand?’ (Ex. 4:2). We all have something in our hands that can be used by God to share the gospel with others. Teaching English as a foreign language is a great tool, especially as there are people from many nations coming to Europe. The local mayor visited the outreach during the Sázava programme and reacted positively to the events.

One of the teams that served in Albania carried out a lot of practical work in a new church building. The Albanian church is young and there is no doubt that having a team coming to help for a week is an encouragement to local Christians. Paul’s prayer for the church in Thessalonica springs to mind when I think of believers in this context, ‘We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Thess 1:3). When teams bring whatever is in their hands, it is a great encouragement to the local church and also equips them to share the gospel themselves. Meanwhile, we learn from some of them that it is costly to follow Jesus and we do not live for this world but for the next.

My Faith is Real

Being on a mission team can be a formative time in one’s faith journey. A team member wrote, ‘One of the highlights for me was God speaking to me through a specific verse right when I needed it, reminding me of what He actually requires of me when I feel so inadequate to do what He asks (Mic. 6:8). God was so faithful and gave me the strength and courage I needed.’ It’s important not to underestimate the impact of discipleship on a short-term mission team. Another wrote, ‘The joy on the faces of all those we’ve served was a constant reminder of God working in the small things.’ Mission teams teach people that the Christian life is about service, that the gospel message brings lasting joy and that they have a God who cares about the details of their lives. To come home from serving on a team having made these discoveries encourages spiritual growth.

The Way Ahead

There is no doubt that it is becoming harder to fill short-term mission team places, especially in the UK and even more so since the Covid-19 pandemic but God continues to use individuals to build His Kingdom. I was reminded of God’s command to Adam and Eve, where He tells them to ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth’ (Gen. 1:28). The word ‘fill’ is the same one used in Habakkuk, ‘For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Hab. 2:14). As individuals join summer outreach teams, it encourages me that one day God’s glory will fill the whole earth and we play a part in that – whatever sphere we are in.

We would love to encourage more churches to take a group on short-term mission. If you would like to find out how you or your church can be involved, please get in touch with us. Our 2024 programme is open and there is space for you!

 

1 Luca Illiano is a GLO worker. He and his wife, Anca, serve in Italy (DPG 2014-2017).
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