My first short-term team

Nothing gets a person’s mission juices flowing like actually doing a mission project. In my correspondence with our supporting churches, I constantly remind them that we are ready to help them organize a short-term project that suits their desires and parameters. Meanwhile, I got to help with a team of high-school kids who came here recently from the most famous mission school in the world: the Black Forest Academy.

The purpose of the week was to expose these kids to orphan ministry and to partner them with the local mission school – the International Academy of St. Petersburg. Leadership from the I.A. initially contacted me for ideas about where they could serve, and I turned them on to the real experts here locally for short-term work with orphans: MIR. But then I also offered my services to do what I love to do: help people dig deeper and listen to what God is doing in a situation. And they were more than happy for my help.

My roles boiled down to two: help them get ready for their ministry, and then help them gleen meaning and purpose in and after ministry. Twelve high school students from each school spent a week here in one of the best orphanages the city has to offer: #9. The orphanage Diana and I work in is pretty nice by Russia standards, but this one is even better. The facility is clean and somewhat modern; the kids are well-attended to, and they offer lots of good programing. Of course, earthly and heavenly parents are missing, but these are incidentals, right?

I had two hours to get the two teams to bond, learn about orphan life, and gain some spiritual underpinnings for the week on the first night the kids from Germany arrived. Here is how I used the time:

  1. To break the ice and start forming teams (Diana gets the credit for this idea) I brought in all kinds of dessert-potential ingredients. The kids were put into 6 teams and given the task of creating a dessert out of what was on the table. They had to negotiate with other teams for ingredients, and they had to create something that was both tasty and attractive. It was a hit.
  2. Before the start of the week I had sent them all a document on orphans and orphanages that the director of a local ministry wrote. With this background knowledge in mind, I organized an orphanage simulation experience for them. I felt like this idea was divinely inspired, though almost no one I told about it in advance understood what I had in mind. It took a lot of time to think up all the roles and write them out, including interviewing people like a psychologist to make them somewhat realistic. The idea was to simulate a day in the life of an orphanage, giving roles to the kids from the director down to residents. Almost everyone had a specific task to complete so that they would have to interact with others, creating somewhat controlled chaos. Of course the whole thing hinged on the willingness of the kids to actually get into their roles and make something of them. It was a glorious success. In fact, some later told me they were nervous about going into the orphanage afterwards, and were pleasantly surprised to see that it was not so bad as they had feared. Afterwards we processed it, including the deaths of two people, the work of the mysterious “Spirit of Death” that I had planted in the mix, and how it felt to actually play an orphan. I’ll definitely be using that one again.
  3. Then I helped guide them through a series of small-group prayer time for the week ahead.

On two other evenings, half-way through the week, and then at the end of the ministry time, I led the processing of what they had experienced. These were questions like: what are you learning about how God has built and called you? What is happening in your heart? What could you do to be bolder? How is the Kingdom being impacted this week?

The kids seemed to respond, but I honestly expect that most of the “aha” moments will come after they get home, and even years from now. This is the ministry of seed planting.


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