Grow Your Mission Tue, 26 Mar 2019 01:23:12 +0000 en-CA hourly 1 32 32 Every month on the STM Leader podcast Mark Crocker interviews mission leaders from around the world. We range widely in our conversation and share real stories of mission with all of the humour, passion and conflict. Learn the secret recipes to make a long-term impact with short term mission. Popular topics include fundraising, crossing culture, team building, dealing with conflict, and sustainability. Find out more at Mark Crocker clean Mark Crocker (Mark Crocker) STM Leader: Short Term Mission that makes a long term difference. Seek. Adventure. 103259307 Three common mistakes in short term mission fund-raising Tue, 26 Mar 2019 15:21:19 +0000 Short term mission fund-raising is tough.  The money is never just sitting in a bank account waiting to get spent, …

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Short term mission fund-raising is tough.  The money is never just sitting in a bank account waiting to get spent, the team has to work really hard to raise it. The worst thing would be to raise the money and then get fined for improperly reporting it to your government, or worse, losing your charitable status.


Have you ever wondered what is allowed and what is wrong for a charitable donation? You want to get this right. If you have ever been confused, make sure you are not making one of these three simple (and common) mistakes. 



1. Gift in Kind

Many Short term mission fund-raising activities ask for donations from donors. These donations can be used to raise more money, or as something the team brings to the field. Donors might ask if they could get a tax receipt from the charitable organization for the value of their donation. Can they?

YES, it is possible. When people or businesses make a donation, they can get a receipt for the value of their donation as Gift in Kind. A really easy and straightforward way to do this is for you to pay for the goods or service and then have the vendor donate that same amount back to your charitable organization.

But, it is important that the value of the GIK donations must be the same as the normal actual value of the good or service. The gift should never be receipted at an inflated value. E.G. if a merchant donates a free nights stay at a hotel, you can give them a receipt for the actual value of that nights stay



2. Silent Auctions

A silent auction is a common short term mission fund-raising event. If a person successfully bids on an item and wins the auction they may wonder if they can get a tax receipt for that item.

Generally NO.  If someone bids on a silent auction item and wins, they not making a donation, they are paying for a good or service. Therefor, if they donate less than the value they are getting a great deal … and they are not going to get a tax receipt as well. The donation is from the person who donated the good or service – you can’t give two receipts for that item.

Most importantly, there is an exception. If the winning bidder pays above the market value of the item, they can receive a tax receipt for the amount of donation ABOVE the value of the item.  E.G. Aunt Mabel makes pies for a pie auction and your church gets into a fun bidding war for those pies. The pies sell at $300 each.  The market value of the pie might be closer to $20 for the ingredients and Aunt Mabel’s time. In this case, a donor could receive a receipt for $280 ($300-$20).  Mabel makes a fine pie …



3. Fund-raising Banquets

Banquets are fairly common short term mission fund-raising events.  If you are inviting people to a fundraising dinner can you give a tax receipt for the ticket they purchase?

YES and NO.  At least not the whole ticket. A donor can only get a tax receipt for any portion of the ticket price above the actual meal costs.  E.G. You hold a fundraising dinner and invite the community to come in at $50 a ticket. You need to figure out the actual cost of the meal. If the meal costs $25 to put on, then the donor can get a receipt for a donation of $25, not the whole $50



So you may be seeing the trend here. If there is any benefit to the donor, they can only be receipted for the donation amount outside of that benefit. A donor cannot get a tax receipt for any portion of an event where they get something personally.

Here is a much better way to sort out some great short term mission fund-raiser ideas.

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Shooting Kids – or how to make a great mission video. Fri, 27 Apr 2018 19:20:21 +0000 There are thousands of mission videos and images out there.  Some help a ministry, many do nothing, a few go …

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There are thousands of mission videos and images out there.  Some help a ministry, many do nothing, a few go viral. Then there are the videos that actually hurt the reputation of an agency. Do you know the secrets to take great mission video and pictures?


I was on a trip to El Salvador to train the volunteer leaders of Shelter. Their mission is to build houses for families in need of a house in El Salvador. This was the second year they invited me down and I was once more impressed with their compassion, zeal for meaningful work, quality of construction and serious leadership skills.


While I was there I took some time away from building the house to take some video of the process (it was also a good excuse for me to stop the hard work of breaking concrete with a pickaxe!)


I edited the footage together once I returned home and posted it online. The video received a lot of views and was widely shared. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, check it out:


Why I made the video

Whenever you make a video or share an image always begin by answering the basic question WHY.

Why are you making this video?

What do you hope it will do?

When you begin with why, it helps you answer other important questions: WHO will be most interested in watching this?  WHERE should I share it so those people can easily see and share? WHAT part of the story will be most interesting to them?


Start with WHY before you begin editing or posting and you will immediately notice your storytelling gets sharper and more people will be interested.


So what is my WHY? I shared that video because I believe in the work of Shelter. I also shared the video because I want to practice what I preach.



What should you show?

Earlier today I saw a picture that a ministry in Haiti had posted on facebook to highlight an event. The image was of a large family in front of a home fashioned out of scrap tin and tarp. The family spread out in a line. The colours were dark and the small figures unsmiling and small. If you looked closely you could see a couple in the centre holding babies wrapped up in blankets.


The image was stark.


A colleague asked the person who posted why they chose this particular picture.  I felt the same way, I wanted to ask why they didn’t show a positive picture instead of another stereotype of poverty.


The original poster responded with a story of the picture. This was a strong and happy successful family who was celebrating the birth of twins. The emotion and love of the person who posted the picture was obvious. They cared about these people and wanted to portray their capacity.


“Event pictures must explain things that words can’t explain”


The problem is that none of us know this family, we dont know the story and can only judge the image by what we see. Without the story behind the image we can’t understand. The colleague who questioned the original image shared a great insight – “event pictures must explain things that words can’t explain”.



The Opposite of a Great Mission Video

A few months ago, a possible partner sent pictures of dead people to my inbox. They were trying to highlight a tragedy happening in their part of the world and shared some gruesome images and asked if I would help out.


We have all seen thousands of videos showing off a person who is working to eliminate poverty somewhere. Many of those videos follow a predictable pattern:


  • Show people in tragedy (who don’t look like me)

  • Show heroes coming in to save the day (who definitely look like me)

  • Ask viewers (who also look like me) to donate so they also feel like a hero.

I think a lot of those pictures and videos do little to help and actually belittle the people being portrayed. I think they dishonestly show outsiders as the ones with all the answers.


I challenge people to show a different story. Whenever possible, a great mission video will show people in positions of agency – as people with the ability to change their circumstances and story.


People tell me that like the concept I teach, but I get plenty of pushback. Many are not convinced this idea will work. They tell me that if they don’t share shocking images, no one will do anything.


Again and again I hear that leaders feel obligated to show shocking images of the the horrible reality of poverty. They know that if people feel bad/guilty they will get donations.


It works.


I do believe that there is a place for shocking images – the lifeless body of Alan Kurdi on the mediterranean beach shocked us all into pushing for Syrian peace – but even in this particularly pressing emergency the picture was taken with a sensitivity.


The truth is that the VAST majority of us are not working in the centre of a disaster response. We are not caring for people who will die today or tomorrow from disease, crisis, or men with guns. If we are involved in long-term community development, poverty porn should not have a place in our advertising.


I train people to do something very different when sharing video and photos of their work.



The Story Formula for a Great Mission Video

Some people are not convinced that positive story-telling works so I was pleased to see just how popular my video from El Salvador became.


I thought it might be helpful if I shared some of my process in developing this video:



Let Me Re-emphasize What I Don’t Do:

I make sure that I don’t take much footage of heroic pictures of a person from outside the community who is there to simply direct others or hug cute kids. This reinforces a stereotype that outsiders are the solution to internal problems.


I also don’t take pictures of raw sewage, or broken stuff. This is simply because I wouldn’t want someone coming to my house and taking pictures of my garbage cans, or snapping selfies in the part of my yard where I throw all my junk.


A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself would you want someone portraying you in this way?


What I Do

My process usually begins by asking myself if I produce a great mission video who will want to watch it. I often just think about a few of my friends and ask myself what would those guys be interested in seeing?


I look for something interesting or educational: 

I like to watch youtube videos explaining how to build stuff. They are inspiring. I think “I can do that!” I probably never will, but I feel like I learn a new skill when I watch a master showing off their process. 


That’s why I share the details of the build (not every step – that would be dull) … but enough that someone with a handyman mindset can get what is happening. I think people are interested in the process of what we do. People want to see how a house is built in 3 hours. That’s a compelling story. 


Take footage of the process, but remember that this is not your main objective. Your primary purpose for a great mission video is to share a true human story that everyone on the planet can relate to.



I show partnership: 

I try to always highlight how people from the community are in the drivers seat

Unfortunately this cannot be done with some charitable agencies simply because the people in their stories are definitely not allowed into those positions of power.


In this video I highlighted the side-by-side nature of the work, how we each took part of the job, the mutual leadership, how the family gave us massive watermelon wedges as we gave our labour. 


Thankfully, this exchange was natural. I didn’t have to cherrypick images to force promote something that was not naturally happening. 


When you are capturing footage that you are also telling the whole story of community ability. Don’t just take pictures of your friends, or try to capture an image of “nobility in the midst of poverty”, take pictures highlighting the real abilities of the people from the community.



I show off other people: 

I wanted to highlight the work of a partner I admire. I don’t love self promotion – but I enjoy sharing the stories of what my colleagues and partners are doing. Help build up someone else!


If you are running a charity, take some time to promote other partners.  It’s not only kind, but it is important to honour those who are doing great work.


A great mission video will share a universal human story: 

There are themes that every human being on the face of the planet can understand: family, desire, jealousy, hope, disappointment, the thrill of a gift, loss … the list goes on. 


Themes like poverty, or abandonment, or abuse are NOT universal … we can feel bad for others but many people have not suffered those specific issues. 

I chose the concept of house and home in this video because this is a universal human story.This theme was a pretty easy choice as building houses was our objective for the week. We all relate to a house – they may be all different shapes and sizes as the video shows, but we all understand House and Home. Human beings have a feeling associated with our house and our home. HGTV wouldn’t exist if we didnt! 



Those are my thoughts on content for a great mission video. Of course there is plenty more to talk about when developing great mission videos; technical advice on how to frame shots and get great audio and image quality will add tremendous impact. I plan to cover that another time.


What’s your best advice, what do you find is helpful when you are trying to create a great mission video? What story do you tell? What do you avoid?


Please share your hard-won secrets with the rest of us leaders – we want to learn!

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Experts ask these questions on a short term mission application form Thu, 22 Mar 2018 15:06:45 +0000 As leaders dream of mission we know we can’t do it alone. We need a great team around us. That …

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As leaders dream of mission we know we can’t do it alone. We need a great team around us. That means we need to find the great team-mates we want alongside and avoid the applicants who will hurt our mission. How do you know who is who? We should pay heed to the advice of great leaders who know what they absolutely must have on the short term mission application.


Why you need a GREAT short term mission application

I once met a team applicant who looked great on the surface. He worked in a church. Had his finances in order. He seemed like a real asset to the team.

He was super enthusiastic about our mission, and had even volunteered to help out training a previous team.

It was only when we looked deeper that the disturbing details began to arise.

This candidate had recently suffered a moderate emotional break-down and was being treated for depression. He refused to let anyone know and pretended it wasn’t happening. Being treated for depression wouldn’t have kept him from the team – but hiding it wasn’t helping us trust him.

We found out because we asked the people he worked with to describe him. Co-workers liked him, so at first they didn’t want to say anything negative. When we dug just below the surface they described concern. They told us of an instability that he would bring.

After reviewing the application, the team leader knew that on this mission, he would not have the capacity to accommodate this person’s need. His application was denied.


Thats when it got ugly.


The applicant showed his true colours. He blasted everyone with an ugly tirade.

He threatened the team leader.

He tried to force his pastor to give him a positions on the team.

The team leader was shaken. It all worked in the end, but they were certainly happy that they had gone through the application process with everyone – even the candidate who looked ideal at first glance.



Do you know how to select people for your missions teams?

A short term mission application form is the first move for a potential team member. Many people seem interested until it comes time for them to actually apply. An application winnows out tire-kickers and smoothly helps move people into a decision.

Your short term mission application questions should reveal a seriousness to your team. They will help a participant to decide whether or not they are able to work with you.

Is there one magical question we should have on the short term mission application form to ensure we get the right people? Probably not, but experience has shown that a few principles will  make your life a lot easier.


1. don’t be afraid to go deep

Your questions should expect something from your potential team members.

Dig a little.

Show what kind of openness you are looking for from your team.


2. take your time

Your questions should take a little more time than a quick credit card application in a mall (but not much more).

Someone who is not willing to take 15 minutes to reflect on why they want to go, may not be the best candidate to take on your team.


3. make sure EVERYONE participates

Don’t skip any applicant, no matter how well qualified.  Make sure that everyone goes through the same process.

Not only is it just fair – but those with experience will tell you that people who feel they are above an application process are the same people who create the most problems.




Definitely Ask these questions on your short term mission application


An important purpose of an application is to let participants know that this process will involve commitment and openness.

Ask personal questions, and expect direct and complete answers.


Why do you want to go?

Be careful of turning this into a values test … no one (not even you) have perfectly pure motives.  Just look for the outliers


Describe the good and bad of your physical and mental health.

“Do you have any condition that will make it difficult for you to fully participate …?”


Do you have a criminal record?

“Will you be able to travel to and through the countries to our destination?”


Are you willing to submit to a police check?

If we do police checks for volunteers who work with kids at home, do we have the same standard of care for other people’s kids?


Tell us about your spirituality.

Does it affect our work if a team member promotes values different from our partners?


Share your references.

– Ask for someone they have to report to

– Ask for someone they find spiritually significant

– Ask for someone that relies on them

Ask the people who know the candidate best to tell you how they will react when there is tension, disagreement, stress, work to be done?



No application question is perfect. You will never find every vital piece of information you need. But the application should give you some threads for a follow up – great team leaders use this application as the basis for a personal interview.

Your short term mission application questions are much more than a way for you to find your next team member. Those questions will also reveal to potential team members the kind of transparent relationship you are expecting from them.

Be inquisitive and follow your gut.

This might be where they decide that this isn’t for them … if they self-exclude now, you might have just dodged a bullet!



Don’t bother asking these questions on your short term mission application

There are some questions that seem good on the surface, but really don’t help your process. Ask yourself, “What will I do with the information I receive from this question”.

If the answer will not affect your decision – don’t ask the question!

Here are two common questions you might choose to skip.


What is your previous mission experience?

This question may be helpful at the interview, but will asking the question really help you select a candidate or not?


When date did you personally accept Christ?

The question about a faith perspective, “Are you a Christian?”, or ‘Share your testimony’ are by no means a requirement for all mission-sending organizations.

Many churches and agencies are willing to accept participants who do not self-identify as a Christian, so long as they are willing to work within the priorities and requirements of the agency.

In fact, some churches feel it is important to bring ‘non-believers’ onto the field with the express opinion that if people are brought to where God is at work, then they may meet Him there.

A better question is ‘Describe your spirituality’



One final addition you must have on the Short Term Mission Application

At some point in our life we have all filled out forms with crazy questions. We wonder what must have happened in the past to get people to add ‘that’ question to their forms.

  • “I promise not to bring fruits and vegetables along”
  • “I won’t have a one-night stand on my mission trip”
  • “I will pay for the full cost for our trip to Disneyland”

If you have ever seen an odd question on a form, chances are it was added after an odd person made an odd choice.

Be cautious of adding questions to a application after someone does something crazy. This process will never end.  As long as there are new short term mission teams there will be new ways for people to mess up.

So what should you do?

You may wish to add something like this to the end of your application.

“We can’t write a rule for every circumstance we could ever face, so our ultimate rule is how can we remain in healthy relationship. Relationships get messy. If you are in doubt about our team expectations you should ask, if you are failing the team we will let you know. The rule of thumb for us all is to stay strongly connected.” 


What’s your non-negotiable for a short term mission team application?

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Mission Trip Rules – Trusting in the Dark Tue, 30 Jan 2018 23:41:01 +0000 Todays guest post is by Lisa Beiderwieden. Lisa is the Manager of Missionary Care for the Evangelical Free Church of Canada. …

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Todays guest post is by Lisa Beiderwieden. Lisa is the Manager of Missionary Care for the Evangelical Free Church of Canada. As a mission leader, she sometimes has to professionally listen to people complain about mission trip rules 🙂


The unreasonable rules

As a Short-Termer, you will work with Missionaries who have been on the field a long time. Perhaps, even longer than you’ve been alive. They are a rare breed and they follow different mission trip rules.

  • No – you can’t wear shorts
  • Just ignore that dirty poor kid
  • Tell that skinny man over there to carry this bag for us

Many of those rules will seem absolutely ridiculous. Or racist. Or heartless.

You try to understand, but you start to wonder. You ask why a certain rule is in place and your host acts too busy to talk to you. They flippantly tell you “we’ll talk about it later”.


The internal conflict in mission trip rules

You tell yourself you want to understand. You would like to pause, analyze, discern and make wise choices. As a leader you don’t like to be told “because, I said so”. You like to understand what is happening and why.

If you are strong and independent (some people call it resistant and stubborn 🙂 you might even resist mission trip rules, until they are completely explained.

This causes a conflict on the mission field.

Host Missionaries have learned to operate in a new country and community. They will use two or more languages in one sentence without noticing. They will make sudden decisions that don’t make sense to you. They will suddenly ask you to stop talking, or even remove you from a situation. As a leader, this feels arbitrary and insulting.

If you ask them why, they may be vague or act like they are covering something up.


Trusting in the Dark

When you’re on the mission field, demanding to understand something before you will change your behaviour can be perilous.

You will not always understand your host’s mission trip rules while you’re serving with them. Still, as a follower of Jesus, you are called to trust. There is a time to ask for explanations, and a time to trust in the dark.

There is always a bigger picture that you are missing. It is rarely easy for your mission host to pause and explain this in the moment.


Check out these great answers to 10 (seemingly) absurd mission trip rules:


1. “Why shouldn’t I sit cross-legged?”

You’ve just aimed the sole of your foot at a Muslim. The insult has destroyed a credibility that took years to establish.



2. “I don’t agree, and I won’t do this until you explain yourself!”

The rest of the team is watching us argue, and it is causing anxiety and division. The nationals are also watching, and see our disunity as a reason for not trusting us.



3. “I don’t understand! Why I can’t give him money, when he needs it?

This man has a church, a pastor and a community who are responsible for him; you’ve just disrespected their authority and encouraged everyone else to do the same.



4. “Why won’t you tell me what’s going on?”

As soon as I know, you’ll know. I am thinking in two languages here, and it takes time to process.



5. “I’m just an extrovert! I have a right to be myself!”

By hugging that teenage boy, you just agreed to marry him. Congratulations.



6. “These dogs are being neglected! Someone had to do something, so I fed them!”

The food you just threw to the dogs is more than these people will eat for supper. So that’s cool …



7. “I paid a lot of money to be here! Why are we eating this garbage, and staying in such a dump?”

I will give you a copy of the budget later. For now, if you want a hotel room, everyone here will see you as the spoiled princess you apparently are.



8. “My needs are not being met!”

That is probably the truest thing you have said all week. I really want to know what you think a missionary is, exactly?



9. “You’re bossy!”

Yep. Right now, I am the boss. Deal with it.



10. “What am I even doing here? I feel like I’m wasting my time, I don’t even speak the language, etc….”

Your very presence is communicating that you care, the fact that you are sacrificing time, money, to be here.

Just focus on making ONE friend, make one person know that you see them, care about them, and will remember them once you leave.

Seriously just one.  It might just change a life – yours!



You are in good company

While on mission, remember the greatest Biblical characters needed to learn to obey without fully understanding, what was going on.

  • Abraham, arguably the first missionary, is told: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” No further details were given. For his trusting obedience, Abraham becomes the acknowledged spiritual father to the three major global religions; one half of the world’s current population.
  • Moses is told by God, “Bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” There is no strategic plan unpacked; had there been, perhaps Moses would have been even more hesitant. Instead, Moses obeys, founds a new culture, and establishes a nation of royal priests.
  • Rebekah is asked, “Will you go with this man?” She agrees to leave home and go to marry Isaac, a total stranger. The result is a son named Jacob, patriarchal father to the twelve future tribes of Israel.
  • Peter is told by Jesus to cast his newly-cleaned nets yet again, after a fruitless night. It was the catch of a lifetime, as was everything else that Peter went on to do.


Your host must also trust in the dark.

Your host will never be perfect, but remember they know a lot more about the culture than you. Your host has had longer practice at trusting in the dark than you. They have to trust they are moving in the right direction, making a difference, and do it with a bunch of newly arrived experts (your team.)

Trusting in the dark is uncomfortable for me and for you.

Someone has to make the mission trip rules and this can be threatening and ego-deflating. But trust is also courageous, noble and honouring to God and to the leaders he has appointed to care for you.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. -Proverbs 3:5

Ever had that ‘A-Ha’ moment when a crazy rule suddenly made sense?


Are you ready for the Short Term Mission Leadership course. The course is built for leaders (newbies and experts alike) who are learners, want to grow, and are ready for the next step.

Click to  look at the course …



Lisa Beiderwieden is the Manager of Missionary Care for the Evangelical Free Church of Canada Mission. Her favourite parts of the job are debriefing missionaries on the field, organizing spiritual care retreats and leading the Tim Tam Slam.

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Nine Secrets to Working With Translators Sat, 20 Jan 2018 01:15:51 +0000 If you involved in short term mission, eventually you will yourself in front of an audience working with translators.  A …

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If you involved in short term mission, eventually you will yourself in front of an audience working with translators.  A great translator can make your job look easy, but a person who has never worked with a translator can make things difficult for the audience.


A tough translation

Pierre thankfully finished the session at my side. 

The community meeting was nearly unbearable. The room was hot and stuffy, but the heat from the assembled leaders was much worse. The men were angry at the tough news I had to deliver.

The meeting had gone sour fairly quickly thereafter and everyone had something to say – mainly a mixture of complaint and accusation.  I had tried to move the conversation back on topic, but the participants weren’t having any of it.

They were mad.  

My translator Pierre had cooly stood in the midst of it all. Moving quickly to keep everyone on the same page. He stayed in this difficult place as my voice. He stood there to help me tell the men my purposes, my intentions. He translated hard that day – much more than my words. 

Pierre and I left to get a break and as we paced the halls, we checked in. I wondered if the frustration due to a misunderstanding in the message? Had I committed some cultural gaffe? Why were they so upset?

His service as a translator went well beyond the words as he began to clarify the unspoken language in the room. We planned what we needed to say and headed back into the fray.

I was glad he was at my side.



9 Keys to Working with Translators

Here are some thoughts from my translator Stephana in Haiti of what it takes to do a fantastic job, or skip the video and read the tips below.

Translation is a skill that is difficult to master. Some translators are exceptional, while others will make your job harder. Much more than simply knowing the words, the best translators share the unspoken dialogue as well.

Stephano gave some great ideas from a translators perspective in the video above.

If you ever find yourself working with translators, here are the critical keys you need to communicate effectively.


1. Speak clearly

The best thing about working with translators is that you have time. You have to pause after every sentence. Use that time to plan what you will say next.

Take the time. It will help you lay out your thoughts so they are simple to understand.


2. Speak a little more slowly than usual

When you are working with translators, both of you are actively speaking, listening, observing the audience and preparing the next thought. Take some time to do this.

Tempo is always a tool for great communicators. Don’t be afraid to pause along the way.


3. Don’t yell

Contrary to popular practice, increasing your volume does not help a person understand what you are saying.

Your translator should echo both your meaning as well as your tone and pacing. So if you yell, your translator will yell. Do you want your audience to remember the volume or the content?


4. If you want to stay out of hot water, be careful of idioms.

A translator may need to go to great lengths to understand the ins and outs of your turn of phrase.

Idioms rarely translate. A pun or verbal joke that works well in your language, usually won’t work in another. Keep your language interesting but be cautious of too many ‘sayings’.


5. Keep it short.

A long run-on sentence is difficult to translate as the meaning will get lost while you are talking (and the translator is trying to pay attention), take a breath, pause, and shorten your speech.

Your speech will be twice as long with the two of you speaking. You may need to shorten what you were planning to say.

Speak your point. Speak it short.


6. Be careful of repetition.

If you normally repeat for emphasis, remember some listeners in the room understand both the translator as well as you. They are already hearing the message repeated. When you repeat a phrase, it can get tedious.

When you repeat a phrase, it will get tedious.


7. Keep a flow going.

Once your translator begins to understand your pattern, you will begin to speak more simultaneously. Your pace will begin to flow with your translator.

Don’t get flustered if they begin to speak even as you are finishing your sentence. This is a natural progression when you are working with translators that know what they are doing.


8. Allow for responses.

When you are being translated, it gives you more time to think about what you will say next. It is easy to keep planning your next sentence. As you listen to your translator it will feel like you are in a conversation.

Remember your translator is not the one you are having a conversation with. Pay attention to the person you are actually speaking to, do they need you to stop speaking so they can respond?

Finally. If you have never found yourself working with translators, consider this last pro tip option:


9. Practice ahead of time

You don’t need to find an audience and a foreign language to practice. If you are a team leader play this team training game with someone from your team.

Have a participant come up to share a story or testimony. Act as the interpreter.

Simply rephrase their words. Interpret from English into English.

  • If they speak too long … Skip some of what they say.
  • Misunderstand idiom.
  • Throw in strange “explainations” of the cultural significance of their body language.

Your team will love it, and learn valuable information about working with translators.


Have you ever needed to translate?  Do you have other tips you could share?


Mark Crocker

Thanks so much for reading my thoughts on mission and culture. Special thanks to everyone who takes a moment to like or comment on a post, you don’t know how much I appreciate it!

If you enjoy these articles, it really helps when you either share this with a friend, or like our Facebook page?  Many thanks![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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The Cold, Hard Science Behind why Student Missions Trips are the Key to Faith Fri, 22 Dec 2017 22:51:02 +0000 There is plenty of tension about what this generation is leaving faith in droves. Many suggest solutions on making things …

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There is plenty of tension about what this generation is leaving faith in droves. Many suggest solutions on making things easier for kids to come in through the door.  Youth pastors use attractions to entertain kids to stay a little longer. Interestingly, Leaders who promote student missions are seeing things a completely different way.

Evidently all of the flashy  give-aways of youth programs have not worked out. In fact the Fuller Youth Institute determined:


Roughly 50% of students walk away from the church after they graduate High School.


They shared this research in Sticky Faith. The authors studied hundreds of students over the years of transition from high school into college and found something intriguing. One particular group tends to retain its faith moorings well beyond others.

Young adults who retained faith were students who had been active on a student missions trip.



Why does a student missions trip help youth in their faith?

People want to belong to something bigger than themselves. Simplifying faith to bite-sized chunks reduces hardship, but this is not the compelling vision that you signed up for. All attractions dim over time – no matter how thrilling it was the first time –  unless you are three years old, no one wants to watch the same movie for years and years.


True Mission does the opposite.


Instead of a moments thrill, great mission makes us uncomfortable. It asks us to pay more than we can afford. It forces us to let others see us at our worst. Mission challenges us.

Mission is hard and it should be. In life, anything of meaning is hard.



Why student missions is vital for faith

Here are six keys to understanding why mission matters to the faith of our students.


1. Faith is life lived not pages read.

The Bible we follow is a book full of stories of people trying to manage in an awkward and unfair world. When it is devolved to ‘God’s Lil Instruction Book’ full of motivational quotes we miss the point.

Mission takes the words and gives them meaning in context. When you read about food offered to idols and have to accept a peice of fruit from a priest in a temple that just offered it to an idol … it suddenly makes things real. When it asks us to live at peace with someone we would rather avoid we have to make a real choice.

Mission asks us over and over whether we will follow or ignore the words.



2. Justice kicks in the door.

It is virtually impossible to comprehend persecution when your biggest issue of the week is where to get take-out for Netflix night.

When we visit hard places and meet people who are eager to follow Jesus, it forces us to look at what we complain about.

We see life through their eyes and we wonder how they see us. Sometimes that can be embarrassing and enlightening.



3. Community never happens around a screen.

Community happens when people have to travel thousands of kms together, eat together, fight together and find peace together.

Community is born in the times that are truly terrible in the moment, but remembered for years after. No one talks about the movie you watched last year … everyone talks about the trip you took when the tire blew and you were stranded overnight.



4. Mission is not about being nice.

If the point of your faith is to learn to be nice to people and not rock the boat, you have lost a generation.  If your church spends more time complaining about the carpet colour, or the hymn/chorus/drums ratio you are in serious trouble.

Vanilla platitudes and motivational posters are not the life of adventure anyone signs up for.

Life is to be lived. Faith must be robust, dirty even. Mission drags us into the lives of others and makes us face the complex. That can be scary for some people … but if you are scared, you are probably in the right place.



5. It forces us into embarrassing situations.

Maturity happens when we are put into a place where we either step up or get embarrassed. People on mission get a chance to step out and try on new ways of leading, bad leaders assume they know it all, already.

On mission you will be confronted in your cultural, religious, social, economic (and many other) beliefs. You will be in conversation with someone who is not part of our normal circle. You may be pressed. People will think very differently from you. You will not be able to get off the hook too easily.

You find out what kind of person you are when you have to step up (or not)



6. We have to meet strangers and (shudder) talk to them

It is far too easy to talk about “us and them” without ever meeting a them. Talking about Africans, or Muslims, or Gay People, or Atheists should never be a one-sided activity. If you are reading about them from someone who thinks exactly like you do you are in trouble. If the person telling you about “them” is not African, Muslim, Gay or an Atheist you are probably building straw men arguments.

Instead of random stereotypes of faceless people groups, mission allows us to meet complex people with real names. Mission starts to happen when we learn those names and spend time in real conversation.



Student missions is not a cure-all.

Be careful you dont fall into the trap of seeing mission as an activity rather than the formation of a relationship. This can include using student missions simply as a tool to burn faith deep inside your kids. That is a one-sided activity just as revolting as taking kids overseas to observe poverty.

Short term mission is not a panacea that will ensure faith … it doesn’t work that way, but Student Missions trips do allow students to actively engage in all of the breath-taking ways of life that we all want for ourselves.

Terrified of the risk?  Great! It means you are on the right track.



Why do you bring students on mission?

Interested but not sure where to start?  consider if you are ready for the Short Term Mission Leadership course. The course is built for leaders who have never lead, as well as leaders who have decades of experience under their belt.


Click here to take a look at the course …


The best leaders are not concerned about how many trips they have behind them. They are too focused on growing their future mission. They are fearless about learning more.

Hosts know the difference, they tell me every single day.



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Secret thoughts your short term mission host has when they meet you Tue, 14 Nov 2017 15:36:36 +0000 Today I want to introduce a guest post from Kathy Mizen. Kathy is one of our favourite short term mission …

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Today I want to introduce a guest post from Kathy Mizen. Kathy is one of our favourite short term mission host in Honduras, if you are looking for an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children in the public schools, send her an email at or fill out an application here.


What Missionary Hosts really think when they first greet you.


Will this be a good team?
Will the team work well together?
Will we have problems?
Will they benefit our ministry, or do they have their own agenda?
Will they like us?  Will we like them?
I hope the team leader is ready!

Those are just some of the thoughts that go through my head as I wait at the airport for the team to arrive.


The Anticipation is exhilarating (and terrifying)

your Short term mission hose is wondering what will you be like?We spend months preparing and working with the team leader, but it is not very often that a short term mission host gets to meet a team in advance. There is often a lot of uncertainty of who you’re going to get on a team.

Every team is unique in good ways… and sometimes not so good ways. For me as a host, I want to be open to whatever may come and be prepared as much as possible.

The more the host can know about your team the better.


Want to have a better trip?


Send your host a bio for each team member, including details like:


  • who they are
  • what they do
  • their gifts or skills
  • even random personality traits!


It doesn’t have to be detailed or lengthy (really!), just informative.

And please, send a photo of your team so your short term mission host knows who to greet at the arrival gate. It’s nice to be able to welcome a team into our foreign country with a smile and a hug, as if we already know you.


Laying it all out for your short term mission host

It is important for the team leader to communicate well with the short term mission host during the preparation stage. This helps build relationship and establishes an idea of what the leader will be like on the field.

Do not be afraid to ask questions, as much as you want a positive experience for your team, we hosts want that too!

Many times, teams come as strangers and leave as friends. We know we’ve done a good job when a team is sad to leave and has accomplished great things for the kingdom.

It’s a relief when they leave, and we feel good about our time together.

Are you a short term mission host … what are some of the thoughts you have before you meet your teams?




If you are a host interested in hosting more short term mission teams you may want to take a moment to see how we can make your life a lot easier.

Kathy Mizen is one of our favourite short term mission host in Honduras, if you are looking for an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children in the public schools, send her an email at or fill out an application here.

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Things Jesus Never Said about Short Term Missions Trips Sat, 04 Nov 2017 15:27:11 +0000 Short Term Missions Trips are a great way for people to see the world that Jesus believed could exist. In …

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Short Term Missions Trips are a great way for people to see the world that Jesus believed could exist. In fact the trip is the #2 way that people get involved in mission.  After donating money to mission (#1 way) many people are curious where that money goes, they want to go see the world and make a difference themselves.

As leaders, we look for hosts or agencies who can help us out. We want to go where we can help out in a big problem, in a place that is exotic, at a price we can afford.

Ultimately we want to make an impact.

Why is it that so many of these short term missions trips look different than the mission trips that Jesus sent his disciples on?


The Short Term Missions Trips of Jesus

If you want to find the original STM trip planner, check out the story of Jesus sending out his team in Luke 10. He grabbed 72 of his closest friends and gave them clear instructions for their mission and sent them on their way.

Here is his mission plan:


Don’t take extra stuff

short term missions trips - hockey bags

“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals” – Jesus

Jesus suggested that if we carry too many resources, that we can get stuck in thinking that the solutions to century-old problems is more stuff. If that was true, then the border towns of Mexico (who receive countless STM teams with piles of stuff), should be some of the most transformed places on earth.

Are they?


Don’t self promote

“do not greet anyone on the road.” – Jesus

Staying below the radar seems like the opposite plan for mission.  Aren’t we supposed to blow in, blow up, and blow out?  Where is the X-TREME X-Citement in that mission?

Mission as activity relies on exciting attention-getting devices. Mission as relationship takes a lot longer to build, but lasts a lifetime (and more)


Stay with the locals

short term missions trips - stay somewhere nice

“enter a house, say, ‘Peace to this house … stay there” – Jesus

Taking hospitality from the poor is hard, it positions us as a receiver when we would rather see ourselves as the saviour. We are not the answer to their problems.  The more we try to be that answer the more likely it will be that the problems will deepen and get worse.

We can easily justify it by saying we don’t want to impose. But, if you really do want to make a lasting difference, Jesus suggests you must impose – we owe a debt to one another – a debt of relationship.


Jump in

short term missions trips - don't drink the water

“eat what is offered to you” – Jesus

Being cautious about unclean food, dirty water, theft, accidents and violence is just good common sense, but spending too much time afraid of the people and keeping in a compound is a terrible way to get to know someone.

Jesus ate meals with people. He stayed in their homes. He risked receiving generosity and was liked by the people who didn’t like religious people. Why? Maybe because he was likely to sit down with and have a drink with a stranger.


Get something out of it for yourself

short term missions trips - cash

“the worker deserves his wages.” – Jesus

“I give with no expectation of receiving” is a wonderful-sounding mantra and a terrible way to live. If none of your friends and family ever give anything to you, I imagine you are a fairly broken person.  Human beings require give and take. Reciprocity is what allows us to enjoy life.

Yes, it is better to give than receive, but that doesn’t mean we should never receive. In fact if we never receive, we never give anyone the blessing of giving.

Jesus emphasized this because he knows each of us must put ourselves in the place of receiving from the materially poor. This give and take creates mutual obligation. We get to know a person, not a problem.


Are these the same for Short Term Missions Trips today?

There are so many mission agencies out there calling people to join their mission. A good question to ask is are they calling people towards the mission of Christ.

Perhaps our mission has become the mission of Canada rather than the mission of Christ. What do you think …



What else did Jesus recommend for Short Term Missions Trips?


Mark Crocker

Thanks so much for reading my thoughts on mission.  I am so grateful for the leaders out there who  are jumping in and challenging the status quo in mission not as critics, but as creators. I appreciate all of your comments and promise to read and reply to every one. If you enjoy these articles and are inclined to do so, would you consider either sharing with a friend, or liking our Facebook page?  Many thanks!

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“When Helping Hurts” … Hurts Tue, 24 Oct 2017 22:22:59 +0000 Plenty of people have read the book When Helping Hurts. Has the book helped or hurt the global poor?   …

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Plenty of people have read the book When Helping Hurts. Has the book helped or hurt the global poor?


Have you read the book “When Helping Hurts?”

I read it, I think the book is hugely important and influential.

Here is the big idea. The authors tell us that the world has a poverty issue. But it is bigger than you think.  We are all poor.

The Global North has a spiritual poverty. While people living in the Global South have an economic poverty.

How do we fix the problem?

It is only through an exchange. A real interaction. Moving into healthy relationship where we both grow beyond our own blinding and binding systems of poverty.

I agree we must do this in relationship!


It is a great premise, but When Helping Hurts has a flaw.

Too many people who have read “When Helping Hurts” have agreed that this is true. We all share versions of poverty. Some of us are financially poor, others have a poverty of relationship.

Here is the problem. The word poverty gets applied to both of us.

To call out our culture as “spiritually poor” confuses the meaning of the word. Using the word poverty for all of us suggests an equivalence between:

Are we all poor?

If we are – then we all ‘get’ poverty –  Right?


NO, we are not all poor at the same level.

I don’t feel particularly rich, and given permission, it is easy for me to assume the word poverty for myself. But using the word ‘poverty’ to describe a frustration in our church growth strategy can re-victimize the real (economic) poor.

Let’s not kid ourselves –  there is real poverty out there. Global Poverty is horrible, systemic and grinding.

If we are not careful, we can find all kinds of reasons to ignore global poverty because ‘we get it too’ … after all. I’m also poor.

That means (ironically) for some people “When Helping Hurts” … has hurt


Does calling ourselves poor helps you ignore the real poor?



I continue to recommend the book quite frequently, I tell everyone I know that is involved in faith-based mission to give it a read. There is some GREAT advice on how to begin working with the materially poor. If you haven’t already checked it out, you should!


Click here to get a copy of “When Helping Hurts”.


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How to help the working poor – Selling handicrafts Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:30:13 +0000 A missionary friend notified me on Facebook that she was selling the handiwork of a local friend of hers. She …

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A missionary friend notified me on Facebook that she was selling the handiwork of a local friend of hers. She wanted to figure out  how to help the working poor.

She was working with a local woman who faces huge struggles in life. Not only is the woman poor, she also has to manage physical challenges that would be difficult to deal with here in Canada with all of our resources.  She does this in a place where handicapped accessible roads and buildings don’t exist.

My friend has taught some sewing skills to her local friends. The product is great! Really cute clothing for children.

My friend was taking order to sell the clothes back home and people were lining up to order.  They loved it!

Will this help change poverty?

The question is will this last. I don’t need to ask about her motives. She definitely really wants to test how to help the working poor. That part is obvious.

But will it work? Maybe you have also wondered, when you see that Facebook request for you to buy something, does it really help?

Creating lasting change is a tough gig,  but there is one key you can always look for.

Try to find the weak link.

If you want any project to last you have to look at the weak links. Where will problems bunch up?  What happens if something changes? Who manages the problems?

This is the key to lasting change.

I’m afraid that if I am totally honest, most of these kinds of projects last only as long as the outsider continues to travel back and forth providing free distribution and promotions. For many people who sell handicrafts to support a project, the hard truth is when they leave, the market will also leave.

That means that the most supportive person in the project is also the weakest link.


What is the weak link in your plan?

Simple solutions are easy to find from the outside. If the whole thing hinges on you then it is not sustainable. It will not last.

The key to make something last is to answer the what happens when you leave. This is why I was excited to see that my missionary friend is also hard at work in sourcing a local market for the clothes. A local coffeehouse has recently stocked the goods for sale!

For this project to truly be successful, it will need to grow right where you live.

What local, sustainable, beautiful, lasting projects have gotten you excited?

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