“Short-term mission feels like running a race,” shared Shannon, who completed a marathon in her hometown, Belfast, to raise funds for OM’s ministries in Greece. She sees many similarities between this fundraising race and the month she spent volunteering with OM in Greece. “In some ways short-term missions is a sprint because it flies by and you want to do as much as possible in a short time,” the Northern Irish student described. “It is also like a marathon that requires endurance and perseverance when it seems there are miles ahead with so many more people to reach.”
In the summer of 2019, Shannon joined OM workers and local churches to help with their ministries among refugees in Athens. Shannon and other volunteers prepared meals, distributed clothes, offered children’s programmes and taught English.
“Refugees fleeing unimaginable circumstances have complex needs and there aren’t quick fixes,” Shannon explained. “Therefore, we often complemented the ongoing work of long-term staff by serving in practical ways.” The volunteers sought to demonstrate God’s love through their actions, since it was not appropriate to talk openly about Jesus in some places. However, several refugees stopped to ask why they had come, giving them the chance to voice the reason for their love.
“One of the biggest lessons I learned was that meeting physical needs can point individuals towards their spiritual needs,” reflected Shannon. “I saw how the practical love of God through His people touches lives.”
Witnessing how simple gestures make a significant difference, inspires Shannon in living out her faith in Northern Ireland. Shannon returned, challenged to love others as God has loved her and look to their interests, even when it involves sacrificing possessions or time. “Inviting international students over for dinner and welcoming them by pursuing genuine friendships is so valuable,” she considered. “I have seen how these actions can be transformative in the lives of friends who are far from home.”
Shannon went to Athens despite doubts of being useful and fears of going alone. She found that God is looking for a willing heart and experienced His care for her. “God runs alongside us and strengthens us,” she expressed. “He gives us supporters in our race to spur us on in missions, much like my family who encouraged me while I ran the marathon. Whether through words, actions or prayer, we can always be supporting one another in our efforts to make Jesus known around the world.”
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:4 (ESV)