What should you expect from short-term mission trips? The easiest answer is to expect the randomly unexpected.
Example: I was showering on a hillside in Nepal — this is normal and expected. The fog lifted and revealed a well-used path with people looking at the strange foreigner showering in the open. This was not expected. On a more serious note, we should expect God to work. We should expect him to use us in whatever way he sees fit. We should expect him to call people out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Expect to sow
In Nepal we hiked from village to village sharing the good news of Jesus. People would stop their work and sit down and listen for hours. People were burdened by the oppression of false religion. They were happy to hear this “new teaching,” but they did not believe. Each house I went to was the same. My translator told me, “They like your words, and want peace, but they will not make the decision.” I was broken-hearted. They needed the truth and I was bringing it to them. By the end of the week, I saw my words land on what I considered closed ears, but God saw seeds planted for the harvest.
Expect to reap
Fast forward two years. My family and I were in Zambia, Africa. We sat with people and spoke the words of God. As we read the Bible to them, their hearts opened with joy and hunger. We talked about the Good News of the gospel and the cost to follow Jesus. Fruit dropped from the trees. People were baptized. Young men were discipled. The harvest was ready for the picking. God had planted seeds through people years and months before, and now they were ready for the harvest.
Expect to do both
On short-term missions trips, expect different things. My team in Nepal had quite a different experience than I did. Many shared the gospel with people who heard and responded in faith right away. We should expect God to do things only he can. He calls his children to himself. We are his mouthpiece and he will use us how he wills, whether sowing or reaping. We should expect the harvest to be plentiful.
Allow God to grow
When you go on short-term missions trips, sometimes you scatter seeds and sometimes you harvest. In all things, it is God who makes things grow. Mark 4:26-29 is the parable of the seed. A man sows a seed in the ground. The soil is the one that causes it to sprout, grow and produce all on its own. After all this, the man harvests the crop. In Nepal I planted seeds. The work was not in vain. In Zambia, I felt honored to reap. We get to harvest what God has grown.
So, what should you expect in short-term missions trips? Expect God to do the miraculous. He is the God of all power, all authority and all love. He has called all of his children by name, and he will grow his people and he will build his church.