Short-Term Missions Wrap-Up 2023

Short-Term Missions, Long-Term Blessings

by Allison Groot, STM Administrative Assistant

Summer 2023 is gone just as quickly as it came. However, for the first time in multiple years, OPC Short-Term Missions is thankful to be able to look back on a summer full of teams traveling around the globe to assist missionaries, engage in evangelism, and to reach the lost with the gospel. This year, over 200 short-term missionaries went out to six locations: Quebec, Canada; two Czech Republic locations; Western Ukraine; Lanham, MD; and Wildwood, NJ.

Though the summer is gone, it is evident that the Lord is already manifesting long-term fruit as a result of the teams who were sent out this year, both in those who went, and in those who received them. This was made clear through the joyful testimonies of those who served on various teams this summer, a few of which are reported below.

In Quebec, Canada, a team of 23 volunteers served nearly 50 children during English for Kids Camp. About her experience serving in Quebec, Kirsten Belh, member of Providence OPC in Rockford, IL, wrote, “It was awe-inspiring to see Christ use our OPC young people to serve, teach, lead, and love the children of the small town of St. Georges-de-Beauce. This week was an encouragement to our youth just as much as they were an encouragement to the children.”

Belh went on, “Serving in this way gave us all a glimpse of heaven. We surmounted language and cultural differences and in unity worshipped the triune God of the universe. It was heartwarming to realize that He who unites us is so much greater than that which divides us.”

Likewise, Olivia Durham, member of Covenant OPC, Barre, VT, and director of English for Kids spoke of the blessings that came from the camp. “We had an amazing, exhausting, wonderful week full of every ounce of energy we could all put into both the camp and time with each other. Several of the teens came up to me in the last few days to thank me for inviting them! Saints are being cultivated in these young volunteers, as well as the children they teach. With prayer and watchfulness, the harvest will come in; it is showing already.”

Across the world, another English camp took place—this one in the Czech Republic. There, a team of thirteen volunteers helped host and teach local children standard vocabulary themes in addition to facilitating reading and conversation lessons drawn from Bible stories. Jim Hoekstra, pastor of Immanuel OPC in Anoka, MN joined this team and considered himself privileged to be able to teach five English classes, five Bible classes, preach twice, and give another talk. He said, “I loved interacting with the Czechs and had many opportunities to talk with them about general matters and about the Lord. I give thanks to God for the short term and the longer-term blessings.”

Immediately following the Czech Republic English Camp, another team of thirteen OPC members traveled to central Europe to encourage the Farniks, missionaries in Prague, and share the gospel with children through evangelism opportunities, friendships, and Vacation Bible Schools. Michael Weld, member of Bonita OPC in Bonita, CA, had much to say about his service as a part of Team Praha. He reported, “I really appreciated the opportunity to catch a glimpse of real-life mission work. I learned the importance of developing and investing in relationships and saw it carried out by the Farniks.”

Team Praha served for three weeks, at first hosting a conference for Christian families, then facilitating a hiking trip for non-Christian youth, and concluded with a week of VBS for unchurched children in a suburb of Prague. Of the latter two weeks, Weld added, “In the second week, the daily hikes provided an occasion to evangelize and develop more relationships with the peers. Then, throughout the third week, it was amazing to see how many children came to understand they are sinners and that they must believe on Christ! I was very much encouraged by how God worked among the kids that week.”

Weld summed up his experience, saying, “Overall, I was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a dedicated team of Christians and to be able to teach the wonderful news of the Gospel to kids and a few others who needed to hear it!”

Meanwhile, two countries over, yet another English camp was taking place in Ukraine. Heero Hacquebord, missionary to Ukraine, organized the camp, which included a daily English lesson, a Bible lesson, hobby classes, games, singing, and an evening time of discussing the Bible’s themes. Hacquebord speaks of the camp this way: “Your prayers were instrumental in having one of the best camps yet!  Students participated, Ukrainian volunteers grew as leaders, and American short-termers were excellent teachers and examples of true Christian faith. Students enjoyed a refreshing break from the war in the unique atmosphere of summer camp and the beautiful Carpathian Mountains.”

Hacquebord also spoke of the students’ openness to spiritual discussion. “Students know that it’s a Christian camp and even those who don’t consider themselves to be Christians were willing to discuss, question, and consider the one solution to our deepest problem that Jesus Christ offers. We had many deep, meaningful conversations!”

Though there were many amazing occasions for service and evangelism presented internationally, there were opportunities here in the States as well. In Lanham, MD, one youth group from Vienna, VA was able to take advantage of the Churches Helping Churches opportunity. Leanne Prothe, the youth group coordinator of Grace Presbyterian Church, wanted to find a place where her youth group could serve or evangelize in some way. After working with OPC Short-Term Missions to find a location that fit the needs of her group, the team was able to successfully visit and serve Trinity Reformed OPC in Lanham, MD.

Prothe says, “We tackled brush, dug holes, and helped in the food pantry. We were less than 45 minutes from home, but we got the experience of serving alongside brothers and sisters we didn’t know, helping them care for their church property, welcoming visitors through the food pantry, and growing closer to one another as we worked hard together. If you are interested in a mission trip for yourself or for a group, churches helping churches could be a good fit!”

Finally, just up the coast in Wildwood, NJ, the Lord brought over 135 youth and 30 staff to serve, learn, and evangelize at the Boardwalk Chapel during the 2023 season. Hundreds of Bibles were given to inquirers, thousands of tracts were handed out to passers-by, and countless gospel conversations were had. Just one of these interactions is retold by Lucie Hartley, member of Apple Valley OPC in Neenah, WI. “Four young women stopped and started hammering me with all sorts of questions. I tried my best to answer them, and my friend Hattie helped me find related Bible verses. We had a long conversation, and by the end they wanted to pray with us. The next morning, I prayed that the Lord would bring them back or send someone in their life to teach them more. The Lord answered my prayer and brought these four girls back that day. We  talked, and they were very open and receptive. Please pray for these girls and everyone the Boardwalk Chapel reaches.”

Justin Rosser, a member of Resurrection OPC, Matthews, NC, further explained the sweetness of the time spent at the chapel, saying, “What can I say about the Boardwalk Chapel, except that we love it?  There’s nowhere quite like it. The Chapel is a veritable beehive of spiritual zeal and equipping. God has never left us disappointed, as each year we return with stories of God’s power and a desire to apply what we’ve learned back home.”

These accounts are confirmed by countless others who speak of the wonderful ways the Lord has used their time at the boardwalk chapel, not only to provide opportunities to evangelize, but also to grow in every guest and staff member a love for the lost and a love for the God who can save them.

Enrique Huezo, member of Shiloh OPC, Raleigh, NC, wrote, “Considering how closed or hostile people can be when it comes to having a gospel conversation, the Boardwalk Chapel presents a unique opportunity to do evangelism. People from all walks of life and all parts of the world are there, and surprisingly many are willing to talk. From teenagers looking to party, to families spending time by the shore, to Muslims working there for the Summer, the boardwalk is crowded with sinners in need of Jesus Christ. The Boardwalk Chapel is more than a place; it’s a reminder that the light of Christ can shine brightly even in the midst of a busy boardwalk, offering hope to a world in need.”

As you pray for the Lord to bring about lasting fruit from all these efforts, from the Czech Republic to Wildwood, NJ, consider how you might be an instrument in planting seeds, watering, or bringing in the harvest through short-term missions next year and in the coming years. Summer 2024 holds several exciting opportunities, and we would be glad for you to join in.

Right now, there are already seven opportunities being developed for 2024: Puerto Rico, South Korea, Team Praha, Czech Republic (English Camp), Quebec, Japan, and New Jersey. Take a moment to check out these opportunities on our website, spread the word to those in your church who may be interested, and reach out to the designated contact or for more information. It may seem early now, but it is the perfect time to start thinking about where you may be able to serve next summer!

Short-Term Missions Wrap-Up 2023

New Hope Presbyterian Church Bridgeton, NJ

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