We believe that every young person should have the opportunity to take part in an Overseas Adventure that pushes boundaries, accelerates discipleship and engages them in justice whilst they learn and make friends. Over the years, Urban Saints have taken thousands of young people on Overseas Adventures like this and we would love to encourage even more to do so in the future. There are a range of opinions about these kinds of experiences, but we believe they are just as important now as ever.
One of our newest team members, Megan, wrote the following as her reflection on a recent blog post written by Cath Swanson (Africa Inland Mission) and published by Premier Christianity, called '7 ethical questions to ask before going on a mission trip':
At Urban Saints, one of our core values is justice. We will always seek to act justly. We will empower our young people to engage with justice issues and to understand the importance of loving others first; eager to respond to a world that cries out for justice.
We encourage our young people to do this by offering the opportunity to go on short term mission trips. We refer to these as Overseas Adventures. As part of our new strategy we want to encourage groups to spend at least 12 months preparing for their Adventure, whether they’re going to Mexico to build houses alongside locals, to South Africa to renew community spaces or to Kenya to support local social enterprise.
This week we were heartened by Premier Christianity’s blog post encouraging anyone going on a short-term mission to ask questions before embarking on a trip. These questions are a challenge to the attitude our young people take with them on an Overseas Adventure, and of what assumptions we may make, often unknowingly, about the trip and those we meet.
Part of our new strategy has been developing training resources for leaders and young people before they set out on the trip to be aware of things such as those mentioned in the blog. Things like that poverty is not one dimensional, that our giving must be done alongside local people and that you will learn more than you will teach.
Three key sentences of the blog stand out as ideas we must take with us not just on short term missions but everywhere we go.
‘There is only one saviour of the world and it’s not you!’
While we are definitely told to care for the poor, the hungry, the oppressed (Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 58:6-11, Luke 14:13; Matthew 25:35-40), and to introduce people to the God we know who loves and cares for them, we must not use this opportunity to be proud and boastful. Instead, as we serve, humility and respect must be at the forefront of our actions and our attitudes (Philippians 2:3-4; Colossians 3:12-15).
‘Basically, love your neighbour as yourself and always consider "how would I feel if someone did that to me?"’
There is a quote from author Maya Angelou which reads ‘people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’. While the main purpose of our Overseas Adventures is to get involved with a community project alongside local people, the way we do this can have an impact which goes beyond our two weeks. Cath mentioned a great example in her blog; before we take pictures, we should ask people if they’d like their picture taken and if they’d like a copy of it. It is key to Urban Saints Overseas Adventures that the people we are serving with feel valued, respected and as equal.
‘The best short-term volunteers are those who genuinely want to be useful’
Our Overseas Adventures do absolutely include doing things which are exciting such as sawing wood to be used for the frame of a house or visiting a Lion Park on our day off. However, sometimes the most effective way of serving can be to do the unexciting jobs. We want young people to join us on these Overseas Adventures with a heart to help in any way they can even if this means helping local volunteers do the laundry for the community orphanage.
Our aim is not only for young people to take these ideas on their Adventure but for this to be at the forefront of their minds when they return home. We want to play our part in raising a generation with a heart for justice, engaged in challenging injustice in their day to day lives. This is the long term aim of our Overseas Adventures; for young people to grow in their faith and their understanding of what it means to live justly.
You can read the full blog post by Cath Swanson, from Africa Inland Mission, here.
Megan Davie - Overseas Adventures Team
Overseas Adventures are a great way for your group of young people to have life-changing discipleship-accelerating experience - without you, as the leader having to carry all the responsibility for organising it.
You can find out more about taking part in an Overseas Adventure by clicking the button below. Bookings close for 2019 Adventures to Mexico, South Africa and Kenya between the end of September and the end of the year. Bookings are also open for 2020 Adventures too.