News Update – June 2015

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From this issue of News Update:

In this June issue, I will be sharing about the relationship between Long-Term Missions (LTM) and Short-Term Missions (STM).

CIM Canada has been committed to promote Short-Term Missions since the initiation of her ministry thirteen years ago. In the past, most missions organizations had only viewed and recognized LTM as the legitimate practice for cross-cultural and overseas missions. STM, on the other hand, was considered only as a popular movement in vogue with a limited and superficial contribution in the missions enterprise. The saying that ‘STM is secondary and temporary’ has been a frequent critique from missions personnel.

My thirteen years of involvement in CIM has given me a very different insight about STM.

Let me first bring to you some statistics about missionaries sent from Canada and US between 1996 to2005:

Table 1 1996 2005 Change
Long-term missionaries from US 33,074 33,714 1.9%
Long-term missionaries from Canada 2,961 2,059 -30.5%

During the ten year period (1996-2005), as shown in the above table, missionary growth in US was minimal (1.9%); while in Canada, the decrease of missionaries (-30.5%) was alarming. There was no sign of recovery reported for the years following.

Along with the above phenomenon, there has been a global increase of entry restriction to missionaries by more and more countries. Some major missions fields, like China and Vietnam, have totally banned missionary presence and activities. Other countries like India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Laos and some African countries are becoming more difficult places from which to receive missionary visas.

Therefore, we are now left with this scenario: We don’t have enough missionaries to send, and, even if we do, we have lesser places for the missionaries to go and to effectively perform their roles.

But there are still millions of people who need to hear the gospel from those who have experienced the saving grace of God. Do we simply work harder to only recruit career missionaries (LTM) to do that, or do we need to deploy a different strategy so the gospel will be preached and witnessed continuously and effectively?

In fact, years ago, God has started the new strategy to make this happen. He has started the STM movement all over the world. Let me show you another table which shows the STM situation in North America for the same period as the previous table:

Table 2 1996 2005 Change
Short-term workers from US 63,995 144,132 125.2%
Short-term workers from Canada 2,470 3,534 43.1%

*It is estimated that STM sent overseas from North America in 2015 will be around 1.5 million.

The abrupt and significant rise of the STM figure has become a prevalent phenomenon in most of the previously sending countries. Missions efforts affected by the decline of LTM has been compensated by the emerging STM movement.

Nevertheless, a few clarifications are needed to present a truer picture:

1) STM is never meant to replace LTM, which the Lord has used mightily and effectively in the past. LTM should continue to be the leading player in the missions field.

2) STM in her current sprouting stage has a long list of things which are not helping the cause of missions and needs to be corrected. This was also true with LTM at her early stage when missionaries made mistakes that did not enhance their outreach efforts.

3) At times, STM has been seen as the cause of the drop of missionary recruitment. People were using STM as an easy way to respond to the missionary call from the Lord. This is unfortunately only speculative and does not help solve the missionary problem.

4) STM involvement may help long-term missionary recruitment but its value is not measured by how many more missionaries are added through the ministry. We would be committing the same mistake if we were to evaluate Sunday School by the number of attendees becoming pastors.

STM needs to go through further modifications and changes through deeper missiological studies and experiential inputs from those in the missions fields.

In the days to come, STM will become an effective partner with the LTM to see greater and better fruits in the missions enterprise.

CIM Canada is committed to bring STM to this end for His glory.

Rev. Philip Leung (Executive Director)

* Figures of Tables 1 and 2 are from EFFECTIVE ENGAGEMENT IN SHORT-TERM MISSIONS, Editor: Robert J Priest, p.27, 30