Short-Term Trip-Long-Term Difference

by Bob Gerow

The following is excerpted from an interview prepared for AMG's New Testament Light radio program. The interviewer is Bob Gerow, development administrator at AMG International. He is interviewing Richard Hetzel, a team leader for a short-term missions trip to Guatemala in May-June 2006.

Gerow: What did you want to see happen in this short-term group of students as a result of the trip?

Hetzel: We were going down for basically two purposes: to evangelize the non-Christians; and I wanted our students to be discipled meaningfully. I knew that exposure to a different culture would be part of their discipleship-they would be seeing the larger view of the body of Christ. We've learned of other cultures in geography, we've seen some pictures, but we really didn't know what they were, or what it was like. Now we're experiencing that God is down here and He has opened my heart to what all is going on around the world.

Gerow: Why did you expect that you would have an impact for the gospel when you can't speak the language?

Hetzel: I love a statement by Augustine, to the effect that we ought always minister to people; always evangelize, and when necessary, use words. It is by our actions-the love they can see in us-that we minister. We took down four big crates and five suitcases of items to leave down there for them (at a day-care center and school). These are things they will not be able to get regularly or easily. When children see how much we played with them, and how we loved them, and how much we gave to them, they are going to sense and see the love of Christ.

Gerow: Describe what you saw happen in the students you were leading, when they became aware of the cultural differences.

Hetzel: Spiritually, I think it widened their view of things-their understanding that this is the body of Christ. And the body of Christ does not include just people who can speak English. One of the ways they were discipled was seeing the love of the Guatemalan people and their ability to work with us. It's incredible how easy it was to overcome many obstacles because of what God is doing with them and how they are willing to work with us.

Gerow: As a teacher, I love to see those moments when "the lights come on" and realize the student has entered a different level of experience and understanding. Did you notice any of that in yourself or in the students that were a part of that trip?

Hetzel: We worked at the daycare center and school in the Amparo neighborhood. When the students saw how dirty the streets were, how dirty a lot of the kids were, and then came into the school and saw the smiles on their faces, it was amazing to them! I saw the lights go on in a lot of eyes. Wow! Those students can be dirty, those kids can not have food, they can have one meal a day, or two meals a day, and they're perfectly happy.' That was probably the first time for most of the students to realize how well off they were compared to what they saw.

The Amparo neighborhood is one of the poorest places in Guatemala City. Still, we saw joy in their eyes and in their lives. They know God. They are forced to rely on God to be their Shelter, their Helper, and their Comfort at all times.

Gerow: Describe the lingering effects you notice in the students and perhaps even in yourself as a result of that trip and that missions experience.

Hetzel: A few of them are thinking about becoming career missionaries, which is just awesome. But you do not have to be a career missionary to benefit from being part of a short-term missions trip. One difference I've seen in my own life, is a difference in the way I raise my kids. There is also a difference in how I deal with other people.

I've seen in the students that they don't take a lot of things for granted any more. They try not to complain about a lot of the things they did before. They realize these are just blessings given to us. Everything belongs to God. This isn't really ours, and we don't deserve it.

I think I see a little bit more of a smile on their faces too, because they've experienced the joy in the Lord in another culture, even where they might not have great housing, or the best food, or any of the other blessings we have here as well.

Approximately 8,000 Guatemalan children are sponsored through a partnership between AMG Guatemala and Word and Deed of the Netherlands. Call AMG at 1-800-251-7206 for information on how you can sponsor a child!

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