The Value of Mission Teams
Aug 23, 2023 | 5 min read | Erin Bowman
How did you spend your childhood summers?
I remember disrupting English classes and struggling through Hike Day in a two-sizes-too-big camp shirt. I can recall heated games of capture the flag, half-finished friendship bracelets, and copious amounts of kofola (a Czech soft drink). I have treasured memories of my sister and I enthusiastically performing the camp dance for our Granny upon our return home, and less-treasured memories of splitting my head open on the Jan Hus Statue in Prague.
To add some much-needed context, my Dad is a youth pastor. Each summer our family (accompanied by a team of Northern Irish teenagers) would serve at English Camp in the Czech Republic with Josiah Venture. The annual participation in God’s mission here in Czech instilled a deep love for Central and Eastern Europe within me. Undoubtedly, this influenced my decision to intern with Josiah Venture’s International Communications Team (C-Team) this summer. As our group travelled to Edge soccer camp in Estonia and Fusion camp in Latvia, I was once again afforded the opportunity to serve alongside mission teams.
Mission teams are an integral part of Josiah Venture’s summer ministry. Each summer, mission teams from the US, Canada, and the UK partner with local churches to share the gospel with young people across Central and Eastern Europe. Together with local leaders, mission teams facilitate evangelistic camps utilising the ministry tools of English, music, and sports. Not only do mission teams bring a fresh energy and enthusiasm to camp, but they also play a vital role in encouraging local leaders in the churches they come alongside.
Part of the value of mission teams lies in the beauty of partnership with local churches. Growing up, my family’s experience of short-term mission was enriched by a fourteen-year partnership with the same church in Prague. This partnership enabled relationships with both leaders and students to be cultivated over time, deepening year after year. This summer, I once again witnessed the beauty of the long-standing commitment at Fusion camp in Latvia. For many years, teams from Red Mountain Community Church (Mesa, Arizona) have partnered with local leaders from Pāvila Church (Liepāja, Latvia). As Jeff Davis (Red Mountain Team Co-Leader) put it, “It’s like two parts of an old family getting together once again, who know each other and are just so excited to be bound together once again.” It was a joy to watch this “old family” uplift, serve, and empower one another and the students at camp. Amazingly, this relationship is not limited to two weeks at camp. Sarah Hermann (Team Co-Leader) explained:
“Outside of the summer…we just stay in such great contact, whether it’s through social media, texts, phone calls, FaceTimes…It just becomes much more than camp, it can’t just be about your two weeks here in this country. It’s about being Christ to one another when you’re thousands of miles away.”
A second way in which missions teams are valuable is the transformative impact on those who serve as part of a mission team. As a kid, I watched the young people who served on our teams undergo significant growth personally, socially, and spiritually as they served cross-culturally. Past team members have gone on to serve as missionaries across the globe or lead mission teams from their own churches. Others have generously supported me as I served with Josiah Venture this summer. In my own life, I can see how the Lord has used experiences on mission teams to grow my love for him and desire to share the gospel. Kevin Redding, a pastor at Shiloh Community Church (Phoenix, Arizona) who has been participating in trips to Latvia for over a decade, observed:
“We have a broader view of the world, we have a broader view of God’s love, we have a broader view of the power of the gospel, and our students take that into their high schools. They take that into their colleges; they take that into their married lives and their family lives.”
I would like to conclude this blog by thanking God for every person who has ever served on a mission team with Josiah Venture. My prayer is that this blog would be an encouragement to those who have been a part of, and those who faithfully support mission teams. If you haven’t, I commend you to prayerfully consider getting involved and joining the movement of God across Central and Eastern Europe!
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