STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 07/09/2013

ARTICLE | Beyond Short-Term Missions: Making The Transition

Story Kristin Schwabauer '04
Photos Compliments of Kristin Schwabauer, Daphne Hollinger and Jenna Mering

Sowing Seeds of Hope by Daphne Hollinger
Becoming a World Christian by Jenna Mering

Pablolito. His huge eyes darted from face to face, looking for me, panicked. He had rarely let me out of his sight all week, but right now I didn't want to see him. I wouldn't be able to put him to bed at night anymore. I couldn't sit at his table at dinner and feed him. But then he saw me, pumped his little arms rapidly, and ran and jumped into my embrace as he had so many times before that week. I told him I would miss him--in English--but knew that he didn't know what I was saying and wouldn't understand why I was gone. "Te amo," I said in Spanish, kissing him goodbye. His little hand held mine tightly until my friends pulled me into the van, tearing his fingers away from mine.

After returning, in my sophomore year at Gordon, from a short-term mission trip to La Casa de la Esperanza, an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico, thoughts of Pablo plagued my days and nights. I couldn't sleep or eat or go to class or socialize with my friends. I shut down except to talk about or show pictures of this little orphan boy. Why hadn't I tried harder to take him home with me, to adopt him, to become a single parent? It didn't matter that I was a student. I could sacrifice that--and I wanted to.

I experienced the reverse culture shock and confused emotions that many experience after a short-term trip. But going to Mexico had opened my eyes. I understood the need to go for longer and give more. After I graduated from Gordon, I accepted a position at International School in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as a fourth-grade teacher. Images of Pablo haunted me and pushed me forward. Before deciding to accept the position in Honduras, however, I sought advice from Paul Borthwick, adjunct professor of youth ministries at Gordon. "The biggest difference between long-term and short-term missions is the focus," he told me. "Short-term missions exist to accomplish short-term tasks, but their primary impact and rationale is the life change and worldview change of the participants." I knew he spoke truth. My life had certainly changed after a week in Mexico.

"Long-term missions," he went on, "are the long-term actions of people responding to these needs and opportunities. Both short and long terms can be Kingdom-focused, but long-term missions can have a greater impact on the people being served." I am not the only alum who has wrestled with these kinds of questions.

Daphne Hollinger has recently returned from a year abroad in Burkina Faso, West Africa, with Village of Hope, an organization that began in 2002 to serve impoverished and orphaned children.

Daphne's involvement in short-term overseas work at Gordon shaped her desire to serve internationally after graduation. A Pike Scholar specializing in biology and community development, she spent two semesters abroad. In Belize she studied ecological stewardship, and in Nepal, culture and development. People also led her abroad: her family; a woman she worked with in college who aided refugees in Kosovo and Afghanistan; Grace Ju and Dorothy Boorse, both biology professors; and Paul Borthwick.

Because of her experience as an agricultural intern at ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), Daphne was asked to help start an agricultural project at the Village of Hope. Her goals in Burkina Faso were to cultivate vegetables to improve the children's nutrition and to train both workers and the children in traditional and innovative techniques for gardening and better nutrition.

She found great joy in her work, involving children in daily watering and caring for the agriculture meant to sustain them. She participated in planning for the future of this project with community leaders. And she grew to embrace life in Burkina Faso with ease and commitment. However, life in Burkina Faso was not easy. Daphne says, "I was faced with the more profound culture shock that comes from working closely with a staff of nationals, and communicating daily with people whose attitudes toward social hierarchy and the spiritual world are quite different from those I am accustomed to. I am grateful, though, for an increased understanding of how others operate as well as how I react in different situations."

It took Daphne a while to realize what she needed to give and receive to be effective in her work in Burkina Faso. "It takes time to start a farm. It takes time to learn languages. It takes time for people to observe a life consistently--albeit far from perfectly lived--in pursuit of Jesus. It is for these reasons I am drawn to a longer-term commitment to a people and place," she says.

Now Daphne is studying at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, for a master's in cross-cultural studies with a concentration in international development. Recently she won the 2006 Citizen Science Writing Competition. Her paper, "Agroforestry Development: Traditional Mountain Farming in Nepal," was presented at the United Nations 14th Commission on Sustainable Development May 11, 2006. She plans to work abroad long-term in the future.

Jenna Mering also understands the importance of committing to a place for a long period of time. As a student at Gordon she participated in short-term trips to Honduras, India and Boston. Those trips and a semester at the San Francisco urban studies program in California fed her desire to do more long-term work, allowing relationships and time to strengthen and impact
her ministry.

She has worked with CURE International in Kijabe, Kenya, since June 2005 and plans to remain until at least June 2007. CURE International is a nonprofit, Christian organization that performs operations for disabled children whose families cannot pay for their surgery. The hospital also provides spiritual healing and support for children in two-thirds world countries by offering daily chapel services where the gospel is presented in practical, tangible ways.

Jenna is the assistant to the executive director of the hospital in Kijabe-responsible for the quarterly report that circulates to donors and others by request. Jenna also organizes donated medical supplies and helps with writing grants. "Being part of an organization I feel proud to be involved in gives me daily joy and peace that this is the right place for me. Knowing everyone here loves Jesus, wants to make this hospital the best in Kenya, and to shine His love and serve disabled children--that's something very exciting to be a part of."

Like Daphne, Jenna's experiences at Gordon helped push her toward long-term international work after graduating. As a student she majored in English and minored in biblical studies and missions, and did a Mission Year in Oakland, California, after Gordon. Because Jenna realized relationships were foundational to making an impact on the people she was serving in Oakland, she stayed an additional four years to continue the work. Her time there indirectly led her to CURE.

Like me, Jenna attributes her preparedness for long-term international work to Paul Borthwick and his missions classes at Gordon. Borthwick tells his students that living abroad is not glamorous and can be quite hard. The most difficult transition Jenna had was limited communication with family and friends. Phones are unreliable and expensive, and she had to rely on a new community of friends for support. But Jenna worked hard on her new community and is content to stay in Kenya until God calls her elsewhere. "Developing new friends took time and patience. I finally feel like a real sense of friendship and community has been developed with some of the Kenyan doctors who are here on the station."
While Jenna is still abroad, Daphne and I have returned for the time being. Daphne is preparing to go abroad again, but I am still asking God what He wants for me next as I make decisions vocationally and think about how to serve God daily. Paul Borthwick was right. My short trip to Tijuana opened my eyes and changed me, and that is a big part of missions.

Pablo continues to plague me. He drives me forward. He won't let me settle into life comfortably in the U.S. I have gone back to visit him since that first trip, hoping to find answers. While I don't know what God has for me in the future, I am open to going again--for longer if He asks.

Kristin Schwabauer graduated from Gordon in 2004 with an English major, and works in the Office of College Communications. In March 2007 she will return to La Casa de la Esperanza for another visit with Pablo.

1. Pablolito lives in La Casa de la Esperanza, an orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico.
2. Kristin Schwabauer's class in Honduras.
3-4. Daphne Hollinger '03 gives a gardening lesson to children at the Village of Hope in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
5-6. Jenna Mering '00 with colleagues at CURE International Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya. The hospital performs free surgeries for disabled children, and ministers to their spiritual needs as well.


The short-term missions trip to Burkina Faso
The short-term missions trip to Burkina Faso
The short-term missions trip to Burkina Faso
The short-term missions trip to Mexico
The short-term missions trip to Burkina Faso
The short-term missions trip to Mexico