Luke, a physician with an eye for detail, had first-hand experience of the infancy of Christianity. He was on one of the pioneering mission teams that had a long-lasting impact, which was recorded in Acts 16-20. Luke was with the apostle Paul during part of his imprisonment in Rome as recorded in letters from prison.
From Luke’s report, there were at least two bands of itinerant missions’ teams traveling through the Middle East and Eastern Europe. They spent three weeks in one location spreading the news about Jesus as far and as fast as they could, taking advantage of Roman roads, and Roman citizenship and using relational networks to connect with like-minded people in various towns. Occasionally they embedded team members for months in one location. The outcome was congregations of followers of Jesus in the towns and villages the teams had visited. Their tactical genius was to build lasting friendships with local leaders, and to make follow-up visits with these leaders and the communities of faith they had set up in their first encounters.
When subsequent visits were not possible, they sent personal representatives familiar with the community bearing letters of instruction and encouragement. They allowed beneficiaries of their service to support them financially and encouraged them to help fund needs among other believers.
The modern-day short-term mission of one to three weeks can be likened to a commando raid in military strategy; they need to be integral parts of a longer-term program to be of maximum value. It is the persistent presence of an effective force that often wins the war.
Taking a long-range relational view is important to us at EMAS Canada. Our teams are led by people who are committed to serving through long-term partnerships. Like the pioneers of our faith, we know the value of building lasting relationships with the people we serve. Relationships built on mutual respect and accountability allows us to share in realistic healthcare and education goals that empower rather than burden our partners. In our relationship with the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe, we are aware that we are a small part of their long-term strategic presence, and it is their sustained witness and service that will improve healthcare in rural Zimbabwe.
Unlike the pioneers, we are coming alongside an established church with a specific healthcare aim: to improve the care of mothers and their new-borns. The risk for mothers dying from complications of pregnancy is still unacceptably high in Zimbabwe. The nation and its churches are working to reduce that risk and EMAS Canada plans to represent Canadian generosity in tangible ways.
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Recommended reading: Helping Without Hurting In Short-term Missions, S. Corbett and B. Fikkert Moody Publishers 2014.
Acts 16:1 – Acts 20:38
Philippians 1:5, Philippians 4:15-18, Romans 15:24-28, Colossians 1:7-8, Colossians 4:7-14.
1 Thessalonians 3:1-10.
2 Corinthians 7-8.
1 Corinthians 16:1-4.
All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)
Feature image Photo courtesy Dr. Peter Agwa, Executive Director, EMAS Canada . In photo is: RCZ Health Services staff with EMAS Canada physician and ED during a past EMAS visit.