At Eastside Foursquare Church (Bothell Eastside Foursquare Church) in Bothell, Wash., missions involvement is a way of life. The suburban Seattle church sends out between 10 and 15 short-term teams annually, and has placed several missionaries on the field. Among its recent trips was a mid-March visit to Europe that included a stop in Nowy Targ, a city of 34,000 in southern Poland.
Led by Eastside’s missions pastor, Brandon Brazee, the 12-member team handled several projects there, including a St. Patrick’s Day outreach with Foursquare Missionary Denise Johnson. They also prayer walked the community, helped local Foursquare church members work on their English, and met with several pastors who work with Denise. The meeting helped them plan children’s ministries within their churches.
Brandon says it was one of the most “relational” missions trips he has ever led, with the team focusing on building relationships as it ministered. As a result, several Polish believers visited Bothell this summer to work with Eastside’s vacation Bible school, with an eye on starting a VBS in their homeland.
“Often, on missions trips, we can get very task-oriented; yet we know that building relationships is one of the most important tasks we have,” Brandon tells Foursquare.org. “We are already seeing the impact of that, as those relationships have continued well beyond our time in Poland.”
Brandon says it quickly became evident that, while the Polish are a wonderful people, they live in a spiritually depressed place. In addition to prayer, he says they need to see and experience the joy of the Lord. Still, working with Foursquare missionaries and churches there proved to be a mutually beneficial experience.
“There is a relatability and kinship built with people from another country when we have the mutual bond of coming from the same denomination,” Brandon explains.
Denise says the team from Bothell to Nowy Targ was prepared to lead, which helped things run smoothly. Her church provided the venue and invited people, and Eastside did the rest.
“The team was a blessing,” Denise affirms. “They understood that their effectiveness was centered in them being an extension of Christ’s love more than by what they did.”
Regardless of what country a short-term missions team visits, Denise says there is always a place for teams that have a clear understanding of their relationship with Christ and know how to share His love.
“The do part will reveal itself based on the group of individuals and the need of the local church,” she says. “Short-term teams are a tool for opening doors to people’s hearts.”
Brandon notes that there are plenty of opportunities for teams to go to Poland to serve, help facilitate outreach events, build up the church, and even, he hopes, open a new community outreach center in Nowy Targ.
However, before departing for the mission field, the pastor suggests teams prepare physically, mentally and spiritually, because a trip is about much more than spending a few weeks overseas.
In the case of the team that went to Poland, Brandon can’t remember a group that had so many obstacles to overcome. Almost every team member suffered a major spiritual attack within a month of departure, such as parents divorcing, a near-fatal car accident and a cancer scare.
“We prayed and fasted both individually and as a team, and really supported and encouraged one another,” he says. “God is good and faithful, and we know He continues to work in and through us.”
Short-term missionaries must also be flexible, adaptable and teachable. Plans always change, realities don’t match expectations, and Americans must recognize they don’t know everything, Brandon frankly states.
The humility to take such a stance is necessary to go as a servant, he adds. He says those who go on a missions trip must learn to be students of another culture, the country and the people they hope to serve.
Fundraising is part of the picture, as well. Eastside helped its team travel overseas by sponsoring a bake sale, as well as a dinner where team members served as waiters and waitresses to earn “tips.” They also sent out support letters, which Brandon says are the most effective fundraiser for individuals taking a missions trip.
“People want to partner with you and be involved in what the Lord is doing through you,” he says.
Editor’s Note: Poland has a population of 38 million. In 2011 there were 55 Foursquare members. Through Foursquare ministry in Poland in 2011, 12 people made first-time decisions for Christ, 15 were baptized in water, and 13 were baptized with the Holy Spirit. There is one Foursquare missionary living in Poland, and two Foursquare workers.
By: Ken Walker, a freelance writer in Huntington, W.Va.