By Heather Hagstrom
How can the church continue to engage in mission trips despite cancellations due to COVID-19? With an increase in poverty due to this global pandemic, churches in developing countries need more support than ever before.
There’s an opportunity for mission trips to occur virtually because of technological advancements.
These virtual mission trips can support missionaries and pastors living overseas and help them to continue spreading the good news of the gospel in this time of unprecedented need.
Matthew 9:37-38 (CSB) states: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
Virtual mission trips provide an opportunity for more people to be involved in missions and be sent out into the harvest field.
They can also allow for deeper relationships between the sending and receiving church since they can occur more often than once or twice a year.
The following components can provide some ideas on ways to engage your church in virtual mission trips.
Consistent prayer is a vital component of any mission trip. Ephesians 6:18 (CSB) says, “Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.”
One of my favorite parts of mission trips in various countries was praying together as a team and with the local church and people who we met.
I also greatly appreciated the many prayers people prayed for my mission team in the face of obstacles that we endured.
Through technology, teams can pray for and with missionaries and pastors in developing countries and receive current prayer requests and updates. Prayer guides sent out digitally can be a great support to mission projects.
Starting digital prayer discussions at our churches in the context of virtual mission trips can be a way to incorporate the need for community with the need for prayer.
By gathering together in a digital format to pray for missionaries and the hurting world around us, we can bring encouragement to overseas churches and mission projects.
Giving to missions through virtual mission trips can allow churches to participate in the Great Commission from their current location.
2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us that “Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.”
As we hear about the needs from missionaries firsthand, God can give us greater compassion to continue to give to missions.
More people require help with their basic needs such as food to survive and medical supplies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, their greatest need is to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
There’s an opportunity to give the resources that were planned for physical mission trips to these struggling overseas ministries.
Instead of waiting to give these resources until physical mission trips can resume, giving can still occur virtually.
Seeing videos of my church mission partners wearing face masks and providing food in the context of sharing the hope of Jesus has given me a greater sense of urgency to continue to promote giving to missions during this difficult season.
By sharing God’s love and truth through giving, we can help support our brothers and sisters in Christ and their ministries around the world.
Virtual mission trips can provide encouragement to both the sending and receiving churches.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (CSB) states: “And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
During my various mission trip experiences, God provided mutual encouragement.
Although I thought the main purpose of the trips was to share the love and truth of Jesus with the orphans, needy children and families, and people needing medical care, God also used these trips to encourage and transform my life.
Seeing the smiles on the faces of those in the midst of extreme poverty and hardship because they knew Jesus as their Lord and Savior provided encouragement to me to endure my own hardships with the joy of the Lord.
Although encouragement will look different in virtual mission trips, interacting through digital tools can provide hope to those in desperate need right now.
Recording encouraging devotionals and testimonies along with the needed translation can encourage ministry leaders.
Providing recordings of adult and children’s songs led by virtual mission trip team members can bring the hope of Jesus to people in despair.
Sending digital biblical cards and uploading biblical coloring pages can also provide encouragement that can be shared among various ministries.
Discipleship through virtual mission trips can support the leaders of the churches and ministries in developing countries.
“What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Meeting people’s physical and spiritual needs is more critical than ever before, and more leaders are required to help meet these needs.
By supporting overseas churches and ministries through discipleship training during virtual mission trips, more Christian leaders can be raised up to help ministries.
Biblical discipleship can take place through digital interactions, emails, videos, and books to train more people to share their testimonies and the good news of salvation found only through faith in Jesus Christ.
By guiding and raising up more ministry leaders through discipleship, God can use us to help share and carry the burden that ministry leaders in developing countries are enduring.
Although serving will look different in virtual mission trips, it is still an important component of any mission trip.
Galatians 6:2 tells us to “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
It’s critical to listen to the needs of the mission projects to learn how the sending church can best support them during this difficult season.
By hearing and responding to the burdens of missionaries, and mission projects, we can help them carry their burdens.
Medical mission trips that were cancelled can now be channeled to provide guidance, training, and resources to help ministries still participate in reaching out to their communities.
Vacation Bible School mission trips for children that were planned can still provide ideas, and digital resources to help the local churches and ministries reach the children in their communities with the good news of the gospel.
Through prayer, giving, encouragement, discipleship, and service, virtual mission trips can be designed creatively to meet the needs of both the sending and receiving churches.
Virtual mission trips can allow workers to still be sent out into the harvest field during this COVID-19 pandemic to share the truth and love of Jesus with a desperately hurting world.
HEATHER HAGSTROM is a member of the Heart of America Christian Writers’ Network.