Advance Magazine
Summer 2022

Lessons Learned

You could call Julia Peace’s entry into short-term ministry “ideal,” but that wouldn’t tell the whole story.

Before she flew to Honduras in June 2021, she and her host missionary Ruth Coleman had discussed Julia’s goals, giving Julia a clear idea of the ministries she could participate in. It signaled a perfect beginning to her ministry—or so it seemed.

After Julia stepped off the plane, however, idealism crumbled. She and Ruth found that every child in their ministry had moved away. What a jolt to Julia, who planned to work specifically with children. Yet in reality, this nonideal beginning was God’s ideal opportunity. Through it, Julia gained one of many lessons learned throughout her short-term experience: Be flexible and adaptable; ministry never happens the way you think it will.

Julia learned to flex during that first month when not one child attended Fuente Baptist Church, the ministry started by Ruth’s missionary coworkers Sam and Maria Conover in a poor urban area of San Pedro, Honduras. Ruth and Julia concentrated on their only opportunity—teaching two former students how to read. Because schools were closed for two years due to COVID-19, the boys were out of the habit of getting up early, and they didn’t attend church.

Then the boys’ friends (also Ruth’s former students) returned for a funeral. The friends invited the boys to church that Sunday, and the pair have attended ever since. The boys brought another cousin, and she invited some neighbor kids. Their mom told other moms. Now Ruth and Julia have 16 kids coming to church. Julia has been amazed. She and Ruth never would have had contact with some of these kids if things had gone the way they planned.

A year prior, missions wasn’t even on Julia’s radar, mainly because it was far too familiar. She grew up as an MK in Brazil, and her grandparents and two sets of aunts and uncles had also served in missions. Julia anticipated something different from a missions trajectory for her life. Then, God nudged her: “No, that’s not what I have for you.” In the tumble of readjustment, Julia found God pointing her back to missions. 

Baptist Mid-Missions’ Church Relations and Enlistment Department worked with Julia to find the right short-term ministry. She wanted to experience an environment different from Brazil’s Amazon, where she grew up. A Spanish-speaking country would make it easier for her to learn the language, and she wanted to serve with children. Honduras was the perfect fit. 

Early in Julia’s ministry, another valuable lesson emerged: numbers don’t matter; people do. Julia’s childhood church in the Amazon had up to 110 kids coming weekly. In this smaller Honduran church plant, it was hard to be excited when few or no kids showed up. God assured Julia that her responsibility was the same, whether there was one or 100 kids. 

The smaller numbers shifted Julia’s approach. In January 2022, Julia was working with a girl named Ana. Ana asked great questions about the Bible, and Julia sensed she was close to salvation. Without warning, Ana moved away and Julia and Ruth had no way to contact her. This is a common problem in their impoverished urban community. From that time forward, Julia determined to make the most of every opportunity with a child.  

Julia spent her days in one-on-one evangelism and discipleship among teens and children. Julia and Maria Conover also served alongside another missionary ministering to prostitutes and their children. 

Many children have no religious background or they have been exposed to erroneous religious ideas. Julia learned to keep her own spiritual life and growth on track and to not rest on her Bible college degree. Julia never knows when something outside the scope of her training or experience will happen to a child, or if one will ask a question offering a wide-open door. 

Stepping out of your comfort zone is always a good thing, Julia discovered. Even though she is an MK, entering a completely different ministry environment was just as terrifying for her as for anyone. With the familiar kicked out from under her, Julia’s trust shifted from herself to the Lord. She found that God did not stop taking care of her because she moved to a different country—He’s with her everywhere. Julia has loved seeing the worldwide reach of the gospel. The language and ministry style may be different, but it’s the same Bible, the same gospel, and the same God. Julia says, “There’s no replacement for seeing that with your own eyes.”

Who Should Consider Short-Term Ministry?

Whatever your life situation, short-term service allows you to investigate God’s leading toward missions. Time frames range from a week to two years or more. Explore the possibilities at www.bmm.org/serve or contact us about a trip tailored to your skills (info@bmm.org • 440-826-3930).

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