LESSONS FROM THE VIRTUAL JOURNEYS
By Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil
The journeys with and by the Short-Term Mission (STM) desk at International Ministries took volunteers, podcast guests and subscribers to all corners of the world through the digital world of Zoom.
What have we learned these past twelve to fifteen months?
All the sponsored in-person trips by International Ministries were put on pause March 2020. We pondered the physical, emotional and spiritual definition of bridges. How and what do bridges do? They make visible and invisible pathways and connections possible. That pondering made me think of the Children’s book entitled The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst, which reminds us that as long as we have love in our hearts, the invisible string will be present and connect us over lands and oceans. As Christ followers, we were forced to show and be love differently these past fifteen months.
My colleagues and I at the Short-Term Mission desk at International Ministries reflected on radical questions, which pushed us to do our own self-examination. Here are the questions we faced: How do we keep serving and be true to our call while waiting? How can we do both? How do we recognize growth and new buds of spring in what may appear to be stagnant? We held two centuries of informed and intentional global relationships. They could not go into dormancy. They could not be abandoned because of a pandemic.
One lesson we quickly learned was that we felt God’s encouragement to cast our nets of outreach wider than usual. We were undergirded by this scripture verse from Ezekiel 37:5 “..I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” God breathed new possibilities into us with the array of virtual experiences we launched in June 2020 and a new podcast, entitled Bridges For Mission (B4M). We learned what it is to trust in a stormy time.
The array of virtual experiences, we have been offering and will continue to, have sustained partnerships, invited new ones to the Zoom platforms and encouraged others to venture into the virtual world themselves
Another thing we learned is that people are eager to step out in faith in community, even if it is for short amount of time. The virtual Mission Express opportunities we offer, which last up to five days foster relationships and are cross-cultural bridges between states and countries. These intentional visits and ministry immersions to learn, feel, live and experience ministry for up to 20 hours a week were made possible because of God’s invitation.
A third lesson we are learning is that as visitors from the West, whether we arrive virtually or in-person, we must come with humility, servants’ hearts and students’ minds. When the team traveled to Israel/Palestine during the recent political trauma, encouraged to still come by our hosts, we received peacemaking lessons through prayers and worship. Siblings in Christ shared their pains, and reminded us to be better peacemakers in all circumstances.
What these past fifteen months continue to teach us, is to grasp opportunities, take risks and be willing to deepen walks of faith in the waiting. God shattered the concept of “thinking outside the box” because the confining and restrictive box is no longer present. The use of technology catapulted all of us involved in being part of Kingdom building through the short-term mission movement, to a heightened dimension of living the Great Commission.
The virtual journeys, experienced by all those who participated with the staff at the Short-Term Mission at International Ministries, broke silences and isolation. Many hearts were immersed in hope and love. These global virtual journeys have been a building block of human connections. They have strengthened cross-cultural relationships.
The scripture from Ezekiel 37:5 “..I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life” met the scripture verse in Romans 12:10 “..Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Ministry has been sustained and affirmed.
Rev. Sandra Dorsainvil is an ordained minister with ABC-USA. She joined the International Ministries Division of the American Baptist Churches USA in April 2017. Her passion for missions was formed as a result of her missionary life, as Third Culture Kid living in several African countries and Italy, from 1963 to 1980. Mexico, Peru, The Netherlands as well as within the United States. Since the 2019 Hurricane Dorian, she now travels frequently to The Bahamas on special assignment, to help facilitate trauma counseling and minister to local pastors, pastors’ spouses and guidance counselors.