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Introducing ... Virtual Mission Trips!

By Andrew Shaughnessy, Oct 6, 2020

It was March 2020, Martha Bateman’s first month on the job as the MTW Southwest Hub’s new youth mobilizer. Tasked with recruiting youth from PCA churches in her region and organizing short-term mission trips, she had a globe-trotting, life-transforming, Great Commissioning summer all planned out.

And then came the global pandemic.

As COVID-19 made international travel more difficult and dangerous, MTW canceled all short-term mission trips, including those that Martha had planned. With these plans thwarted, Martha and Southwest Hub Director Jerry Gibson were forced to adapt and innovate.

Their idea? Virtual mission trips.

Between March and July, Martha organized three week-long virtual mission trips. This series of nightly interactive Zoom calls allowed participants to meet and hear from MTW missionaries, learn more about missionary life, and dig into three particular mission fields: Cambodia, West Africa, and the Texas/Mexico border. People of all ages participated, from high schoolers with their youth groups to families with kids to elderly couples, all eager to engage with missionaries they might not otherwise have a chance to visit.

A Catalyst for Missions Conversations

I’ve always been interested in missions,” said Fatima Briones, a rising college freshman who attended the virtual mission trip to the Texas/Mexico border. “I’m just trying to learn, trying to listen. It’s so amazing how God works through people.”

While Fatima emphasized that in-person mission trips are irreplaceable, she found that her recent virtual mission trip experience still provided valuable insight into what missionaries’ day-to-day life looks like. Now, Fatima plans to explore summer internships with MTW and discern God’s calling on her life.

Meanwhile, others used the virtual mission trips as a learning tool and catalyst for conversations about missions and the kingdom of God.

“We were scheduled to go on a mission trip to Mexico this summer, but the pandemic put a wrench in everyone’s plan,” said Pastor Kevin Arevalo, who leads the youth and community groups at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Sugarland, Texas. “When
this opportunity came up I thought: ‘That’s going to be great!’” 

“One of the missionaries in Mexico was walking around with her iPhone and showing us the [impoverished] neighborhood where she ministers,” he said. “Later I thought: ‘I wonder if this is the first time that these students used technology to see not a fantasy
world on social media, but the brokenness of the world.’” 

More on the Horizon

Following the success of these virtual trips, Martha organized a virtual seminar series for college students attending RUF’s Summer Conference in July. Now she’s planning virtual trips to Honduras for this fall and winter.

While virtual trips aren’t a replacement for the boots-on-the ground experience, they have provided a unique opportunity for individuals and churches to explore missions and connect with global mission fields. Even after the pandemic is over, there’s a good chance they’re here to stay.

Learn more about virtual mission trips at mtw.org/events.

Andrew Shaughnessy

Andrew Shaughnessy is a long-time word slinger who spent nearly six years as MTW’s staff writer, gathering and telling impact stories from missionaries across the globe. These days, he’s off working as an analyst and editor in the publishing industry, writing fiction, and mountaineering. He holds a B.A. in history and English literature from Covenant College, and an M.S. in political science from Portland State University.

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