Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you, to the very end of this age. – Matthew 28:19-20
Short-term missions have come under fire, partly for good reason. Sometimes short-term missionaries cause more problems than they actually resolve; sometimes their efforts are squandered; sometimes the work they do has no longterm benefit. It is seed upon rock.
This is all to say that I’m leaving Sunday on my annual short-term mission trip with GraceWorks Alaska. This will be my third year serving, and I will continue to serve there as long as God directs me to.
When people I’m preparing to go on a mission trip to Alaska, they sometimes ask, “Why not Honduras or Guatemala or the Dominican Republic?” Some even imply I want an Alaska vacation out of it. No, I go because the people there need the hope that is only available through Jesus Christ.
Though God has made Alaska one of the most beautiful places in our nation, it is also one of the most spiritually dark. In fact, a Pew Research Center study recently showed that Alaska has the lowest church attendance in the United States. It has the nation’s highest suicide rate, the nation’s highest rape rate, the nation’s highest addiction rate, and a child sexual assault rate six times higher than the national average.
The children to whom we minister are kids like I used to be – broken, transient, insecure, unloved, afraid. I tell them how I know what they’re going through and how I know they have a hope far greater than their challenges. As they hear elements of my testimony and they see a glimpse of how far God has brought me, they want to know more about this Jesus I love.
Staff members and local church staff follow up on adults and children who commit their lives to Christ, discipling them to maturity and placing them either in existing churches or neighborhood church plants. The ministry – a beautiful New Testament model if ever there were one – continues perpetually.
We also participate in relief efforts but never to the exclusion of sharing the gospel. This year we will distribute hygiene kits and Bibles among the homeless of Anchorage – if you can imagine being homeless in such a climate. In years past, we have provided groceries to the indigent, money for a Christian daycare owner whose van broke down, bikes for children who had none, and money to a business owner who lost thousands of Bibles he intended to distribute in a fire.
This year we will serve in the same park where we served last year, which I pray will allow me to reconnect with young women and children whom I have led to or encouraged in the Lord. I don’t expect the work to be easy, but I know from experience it will be rewarding. How rewarding, I won’t know until I feel the weight of the crown I will lay at Jesus’ feet. The trip may be short-term, but the fruit is more than longterm. It’s eternal.
Will you pray for the people of Alaska? Will you pray for the staff and missionaries of GraceWorks? Will you pray about where God would have you serve?