“Start right where you are—praying, meditating, adopting the right attitude—and then follow the Holy Spirit’s direction and your own conviction to the place in the world you might be led next.”
Thinking of increasing your own missional impact, or not sure of what steps you can take? I recently interviewed Aaron Mix-Ross, executive pastor at Heartland, a Church Connected in Mississauga, Ont., so he could share his recent experience of taking a short-term mission team to Colombia. His perspective may help to answer some of your questions.
Q: “We value growth through missions and evangelism” is listed as one of the “Core Values” on your church’s website. How is that embraced and lived out through your local church?
A: One aspect of our church vision is to be “passionately connected to our world.” We support nine global missions initiatives and two local and/or domestic missions initiatives in addition to our own community outreach projects. Support for missions is more than merely monetary. We stay connected and provide frequent updates and reports, and the workers we support visit regularly. Our church members also personally prioritize evangelism and activism in the region through our small group ministry via community agencies. We value local church growth but view our engagement in missions as a contribution to overall kingdom growth.
Q: Recently, you and some members of the congregation went on a mission trip to Colombia with PAOC global workers Darren and Patty McCrea. What was it like?
A: I had been on a mission trip before, but this was my first time leading one. I had visited Colombia twice before, so I was glad to return. In 2016 they hosted a young adult mission team. When I reached out to Darren and asked if they would host another team, he promptly agreed. Darren has cultivated quality relationships and a strong network with Colombian ministries and schools. We took a mixed-age group of eight on a 10-day trip and undertook a variety of outreaches in churches, schools, public parks, and seniors residences. Our outreaches incorporated music and worship, drama, testimonies and teaching. In addition, a couple who are part of our church’s Marriage Ministry leadership team taught marriage workshops in the churches.
There were far too many memorable moments to list, but I can highlight a few. At the conclusion of the worship gathering on our first Sunday, the pastor of the host church shared how he had been contemplating stepping out of ministry, but because of our service he was encouraged to continue. We partnered with his church to lead a meaningful outreach in the public park the next day. The schools allowed us to lead sexual purity, anti-bullying, and suicide prevention seminars. Darren and Patty expressed that although Colombian society generally is highly sexualized, it also maintains a “shame” culture that discourages adults and teens from talking about the challenges and issues arising from that culture. The school administration and teachers were incredibly grateful for our willingness to discuss these subjects with the students. In one town, Darren was able to connect a school in need of a counsellor with a local church. Without exception, the schools gave Darren and Patty standing invitations to return with future groups who will lead similar seminars. A final highlight was working at El Puente, a children’s centre in one of the barrios [districts of a town] of Bogota. There our team led chapel and tutored children. The staff of El Puente have helped to educate and, in fact, re-educate children who have been left behind by the resource-strapped local school board. This experience was equally inspirational and heartbreaking. While on the one hand many children received a second chance at an education, I was left with the sad realization that many of the other children would live their entire lives in economically bleak circumstances.
Q: What impact has this trip had on you, the team members who went, and the church? Any plans to make this an ongoing opportunity in your church?
A: We planned and prepared for the trip carefully and worked hard, often undertaking two, if not three, outreaches per day. We were cautious about our surroundings, and Darren ensured that we prioritized safety. Yet, even with these preoccupations, I was surprised by how much fun I had. Stepping out of my office and out of my comfort zone was freeing and exciting. Sharing living arrangements with the rest of the team was very meaningful as well, and it fostered a sense of community. Darren took good care of us, and as a team leader I really didn’t have to worry about a lot—but you know you are on a mission trip when you wake up with a cold shower every day! The team bonded, built trust, and many have increased their ministry involvements since returning. They describe the experience in Colombia as life changing.
Q: Has this experience helped to strengthen your relationship with the global workers?
A: I had met Darren once or twice before going to Colombia, but we were only acquaintances. Having served alongside one another on the mission field, I now consider Darren and Patty personal friends. They are great to work with. They arranged our translators and co-ordinated all of our local accommodation and transportation within Colombia. They took wonderful care of my team and prioritized us while we were there. As a team leader in a different country, Darren’s intentional involvement was a huge reassurance to me. I would happily return with another team.
Q: With various Christian charities vying for support, what motivates you to partner with and support PAOC global workers?
A: A good tree produces good fruit. Darren and Patty are fruitful labourers. One of Darren’s character qualities is that he strives to be effective. If we were doing something that felt ineffective, he encouraged with good suggestions. For example, when we went to the schools, we didn’t just download information to the students. Darren helped us to communicate in such a way that the students really wanted to listen. So what we shared was well received and resulted in positive outcomes. Darren and the other PAOC global workers with whom we partner have proven themselves to be effective, productive, trustworthy and deserving of the investment.
While our team prepared to go to Colombia, our goal was that whichever skills we honed for use in Colombia, we would apply to our local context upon returning to Canada. I am a strong believer in international missions, but the motivation for mission is only partially influenced by geography. Mission starts right where we are. A desire for missional impact begins with a burden for those who are far from Christ and a motivation to form relationship with them so as to share the good news. Start right where you are—praying, meditating, adopting the right attitude—and then follow the Holy Spirit’s direction and your own conviction to the place in the world you might be led next.
Jodey Hutchings is the partner relations and print communications manager for PAOC International Missions. She has been serving there since 2013.
This article appeared in the July/August/September 2020 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2020 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photos courtesy Aaron Mix-Ross.