Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 3, no. 1 (February 2012)

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Craig and Jeri Ford. Short Term Missions Handbook: A Guide for First Time Short Termers and a Reference for the Rest. Self-published, 2010. Kindle edition. $9.99.

Craig and Jeri Ford bring the essentials for short-term missions to the one preparing to go. They draw from five years of missionary experience in Papua New Guinea, where they have hosted short-term missions and gained some host-culture perspective. The Fords have followed as well as coordinated short-term missions plans. Reflective wisdom of other missions-experienced contributors—short-term, former, and career missionaries—makes its way into this STMH as well.

STMH promises to guide readers in introspective cultural and spiritual adjustment and financial planning for their yet-to-come short-term mission trip. STMH includes smart information on culture shock appropriately succinct for a short-term audience. The content of STMH is concise and intelligent. It is a mere 42 pages.

STMH touches on several emotional worries the pre-field short-termer might be internalizing and moves him or her to a broader and deeper vision of mission. It addresses criticisms by friends and family as well as personal feelings of safety, fear, and calling, moving the missionary to have a deeper theological reason for even a short-term mission and to see it in the context of God’s broader mission. Of particular interest in STMH is the succinct and intelligent explanation that “the Bible doesn’t have a missionary call: it is a missionary call.” These introspective pieces are all connected to checking motives and processing self-perception.

In many ways, STMH has what you’d expect: guidance for a short-term missionary in discovering his or her call and insights to prepare one’s attitudes toward money, whether in regard to raising money or in addressing poverty concerns in the field. STMH tends to meet these expectations with no less depth but a little greater conciseness than one would expect.

I found several strengths in STMH. One is the inclusion of practical action items. There is, for example, a motive-check directive. Another strength of STMH is the underlying spiritual depth related to very practical advice. Although there are concise and broadly applied steps given for, for example, fundraising, there is always a thoughtful introduction connecting the process to God’s nature and character as well as the personal character of the missionary. The Fords present spiritual groundings all along the preparation process that are consistently easy to understand. Finally, a great strength of STMH is the way it leads the preparing missionary in processing class and poverty issues (especially pp. 22–25).

STMH also includes a 10-day Journal, Devotional, and Prayer Guide. Each page includes a themed devotional thought, a prayer lead-in, and space to journal. Some of the themes include, “God’s Already There,” “A Dose of Humility,” “The Lord Is in His Holy Temple,” and “Costly Discipleship.” Each devotional thought presents between one and three relevant reflection questions like, for example, “How have the events of the last day shed new light on this passage?” There is a prayer focus for each day, which includes three one-sentence lead-ins. For example, day two’s focus:

Thank you for showing me . . .

I was reminded of your goodness . . .

In heaven I’m most excited about . . .

As I read through STMH, it occurred to me that some readers might be startled by the frank language occasionally employed to reorient the missionary. The tone can be challenging, which I hope will empower the missionary and redirect the tourist.

Yellow and blue make green. That is how I heard a former medical missionary once describe the significant changes that can take place internally with anyone who experiences missions. I believe the authors of STMH are in tune with the rich matrix of cultural adjustment and spiritual fervor in God’s mission. STMH, in my terms, covers the yellow (the pre-field fear/excitement), the blue (the post-field seriousness/lamentation), and the green (the potentially greater immersion into God’s kingdom), all universally experienced hues in any mission.

More tedious short-term missions books exist, but I would recommend STMH and the accompanying Journal, Devotional, and Prayer Guide for any individual or group preparing for a short-term mission because it is basic enough for anyone with at least a high-school education yet imbued with a mature spirit.

Jason Whaley

Missionary

Wollongong, Australia