Haiti (MNN) — Have you ever thought of short-term missions as a two-fold ministry? The ministry of short-term missions is sometimes seen as strictly a one-way street: “There are people in Place X that don’t know Jesus and we, as Christians, are going to share the Gospel with them.” Or the mindset can also go like this: “There are people in Place X that need physical help and we, as Christians, are going to help them.”
But what happens when short-term missions turns into a two-way street?
Dr. Steve Edmondson, founder of Starfysh, says they regularly host short-term missions teams on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. Teams come to the island on a regular basis to help with Starfysh projects, bringing sustainable transformation in Jesus’ name. Through the ongoing ministry of Starfysh, Haitians are committing their lives to the Lord.
Some people on the teams have also come to know Christ as a result of seeing His love in action.
“We will oftentimes have people who are very ‘neutral’ in thinking about spiritual things. They come down with a humanitarian bent, saying, ‘Well, I’ll go down and satisfy this longing I have in my life to do good things,'” Edmondson explains.
“And yet…when you act like Jesus, you learn about Jesus.”
Starfysh works alongside Haitians to transform communities and share the Gospel. Their work centers on five main areas of development: agriculture, clean water, education, health, business creation, and relief aid.
Work teams volunteer in association with churches, such as the Bauer short-term missions team that visited La Gonave in February. Starfysh also gets a helping hand from Rotary teams and medical professionals that work with Edmondson.
“When we pray around a family or around a water filter that’s just been installed, that has impact in the heart and life of a person standing there who has never given serious thought to inviting Christ into [his] heart,” says Edmondson.
“That has its own witness, but then it invites conversations later on that evening, and people are very open [to the Gospel] who would not otherwise be so open.”
Christ-following team members get to share the reason behind their work: they love and serve others because of Jesus and His sacrifice. And, Edmondson observes, their testimony doesn’t just reach unbelieving team members. The ripple effect reaches loved ones and coworkers at home, too.
“People often will say to me, ‘Why do you do it?’ or ‘What drives you?’ Or they will comment on the fact that they admire what [Starfysh does],” shares Edmondson.
“And it just gives me a take-off point…to talk about what drives me…. What drives me is the fact that Christ lives in me.”
Putting faith into action opens doors in the secular world for Edmondson, but it also provides a starting point for returning work teams. Edmondson says he’s heard many stories from Starfysh teams about the ripple effect of short-term missions.
“That’s really the power of the Gospel, because…people pay attention when we don’t just talk about our faith,” Edmondson explains. “It’s in the fact that we put our time and our money and our energies where our mouth is. That makes an impact.”
“This thing of being a Christian is not an academic, cerebral enterprise,” states Edmondson.
“Jesus came to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is here. And if it’s here, then what place do we have in it? It’s not just to sign people up, but it’s to visit the prisoner and to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry.”