Reflections of a Short-Term Missionary – Confirming the Call

NHUM asked Wayne Craig to share his experiences as a short-term missionary.  Wayne accompanied Pastor Ron Dazell on two short-term mission trips to help train local pastors through our Pastoral Training Institute (PTI).  The purpose of PTI is to train local pastors so that they are able to bring the gospel effectively into their own communities.  Wayne and Ron’s service and sacrifice to partner in this way has been a tremendous blessing to the ministry.  

While working on the banda roofs in Kobwin, I had the pleasure of listening to these kiddos singing in the mornings. It is truly one my most treasured memories.

A few months ago I was asked if I would be interested in contributing to the New Hope blog. I’m excited to share some of my experiences about this incredible organization.  I’m not a blogger or journalist of any kind but do hope that I might inspire others or at least help prepare someone about to embark on their first short-term mission trip.

On my first trip with a young man I sponsor.

My first trip was not much different from most first time short-term missionaries. I was filled with a lot of excitement, nerves, and anxiety – the anxiety of the unknown, new people, new cultures, and about what God had planned for me. My journey began about 2 years before I actually left for my first trip, a missions team leader had announced in church they were going to put together a missions team to go to NHU. I felt a strong tugging on my heart from God, even though I also knew I was not ready yet but it was so strong that I knew in God’s timing I would be going; I just needed to have the conviction to obey when that time came. I remember having a sense of ease knowing that when the time was right God would open the doors needed so I could go.  About a year later things began to fall into place (my work, financial needs, support from my wife and family, etc) and the doors that needed to be opened did. I believe the year or so leading up to us leaving also gave me the time I needed to prepare my heart spiritually for the life changing event that was about to take place. I had a preconceived idea of how the trip was going to go, but as I soon found out God had a different plan (he has a way of humbling me with things like this).

Some kiddos at Kasana.

The first memory that sticks out in my mind was the culture shock. Its tough to say what specific thing it was that shocked me the first couple days. The sights, smells, heat, humidity, poverty, amount of people, were all overwhelming. I remember one specific afternoon I had this sense of anxiety come over me and I was thinking what am I doing here, what can I do to help, this is too much, I’m just one little person, etc. etc. By day 3 or 4 I had this incredible sense of ease, happiness, and relaxation; it was like breaking through a thick layer of fog and coming out on the other side. I believe this was simply God’s way of saying to me “don’t get all worked up. I got this all under control”. This was my first trip out of America and I had just not prepared myself mentally for what I was about to experience. If you are also preparing for your first trip, please don’t let this scare you; I truly believe it’s just the initial culture shock but soon after, I was able to see the beauty in the people, the landscape, the culture, and have truly been in love with Uganda ever since. There are people in Uganda that I consider close friends and my heart swells with joy, anticipation and excitement each time I prepare for a trip to Uganda.

Another picture from my first trip. The sunrises in Kobwin are my favorite.

If you are preparing for your first short term mission trip, I would like to make a few suggestions for preparing your heart and mind. Read “When Helping Hurts”. This book really helped me to see how God was working in Uganda. The second book is a must if you’re planning on having any contact with orphans or wish to get involved with orphan care. It’s called “Orphan Excellence” co-authored by a good friend and staff member for New Hope, Keith McFarland. This book will help you get a better understanding of the “orphan heart” which will help you better relate to orphan children. My main takeaway from the book is that the world must make a paradigm shift in how we approach orphan care, not just in other countries but in the US as well. One other book to check out if you’re going to be involved with New Hope Uganda is called “The Long Road to Hope” by Jennie Dangers. Dangers writes about the incredible journey and vision of Jay Dangers and his family’s dedication to starting NHU. I hope to illustrate in the next few blog posts how my perception, expectations, and involvement in short-term missions has evolved over the past 3 years and how I’m so excited to see what God has planned for me in the future.  

Would you like to read the books Wayne mentioned?

“In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence” Suggested donation of $10 plus postage.

“The Long Road to Hope” Suggested donation of $15 plus postage.

“When Helping Hurts” can be purchased on Amazon.

Not much of a need for an electrician in Kobwin so time to be a roofer, sorta.

Spent the day with this young man learning how to build brick walls.