The Power of Short-Term Teams
If we were to compare Esther’s House to a garden, you might say that our missionaries are like ploughs, going ahead and laboring to get the soil ready for planting; our Malawian staff are like farmers, planting the seeds, pulling the weeds and tending to the crops right up until harvest time; the children and widows, of course, are our soil, complex and beloved… and short-term teams are like a good, rumbling, earth-soaking downpour. They can’t replace the long, slow, steady work of the plough or the farmer, but when they come—even in short bursts—they refresh and they bring new life out of the soil.
That’s what our June team did for us. They were an unorthodox group: four girls fresh out of high school and a male doctor (who ended up leaving on the second day due to a family emergency). Their team was so small that the trip was originally cancelled—until the girls stormed Doug’s office in Arkansas with their mothers in tow pleading to be allowed to go. We’re so glad he said yes 🙂
Throughout their three weeks with us, the girls—Makenzie, Bethany, Hannah and Mariel—dabbled in pretty much every facet of our ministry.
1) They helped run a basic medical clinic for the widows and orphans. Originally, the plan was for them to assist the doctor… but the doctor had to leave. So the girls stepped up to the plate, working alongside our missionaries to give out basic medication and dress wounds. “We were like, ‘OK Lord, just work through us!” Makenzie said. And He did.
2) They visited the widows in their homes, biking 8 miles down bumpy dirt roads to get there. “Biking was really hard for me,” Mariel said, laughing. “I was struggling just to stay on.” All the girls struggled until they realized that the widows walked this distance to get to Esther’s House. “When we went to visit the widows in the village, I realized how far they had walked,” Makenzie said. “And I was like, ‘Wait—didn’t I just treat you for arthritis?’” The team soon learned that our widows may be old and slow but they are tough as nails—and always ready to party! “The widows were so cute,” Bethany said. “They really came alive during worship. They were raising their canes in the air and singing, and then at one point, the all formed this little circle and were dancing. It was hilarious.”
3) They painted our chapel, which was in desperate need of some TLC… And they did the whole thing in a day and a half! When they started to run out of paint, they got resourceful, adding a little water to it to make it stretch and laughing as they worked. “There were some spots toward the end that didn’t look quite as good,” Hannah said. “But we just kept saying, ‘People aren’t supposed to be looking at the walls anyway. They’re supposed to be worshipping Jesus!’ We laughed a lot.” “We were probably breathing too many paint fumes,” Mariel added, giggling.
4)They spent time with our kids. “It was cool that the kids were always welcome to come in,” Hannah said. “You would walk out of your door and there would be kids from the community playing soccer in the soccer field. It really felt like Esther’s House was a part of the community.” That’s because we are! Inasmuch as we can, we try not to differentiate between our residential kids and our community kids. Our residential kids live with us; our community kids live in the community. But that’s where the differences end in our minds. The team got to experience that firsthand, spending time with all our children every day. They did develop a special bond, however, with our residential girls. “We really got to build relationships with the girls,” Makenzie said. “They would come by every night and hang out.”
5) They shared the Gospel. “I think one of my favorite things we did was evangelism,” Bethany said. “We really got to dig deep with people. Some knew Jesus but were confused about some things, some people just needed encouragement and some people had never heard of Him.” The team learned the importance of taking their time, of sitting and staying a while with the people they were talking to. They learned that they couldn’t just ask: “Do you know Jesus?” and take their answers at face value. They needed to really get a conversation going where the people they were talking to could feel free to ask questions and be honest. And they’ll never forget the joy of seeing someone really get the Gospel for the first time.
Our June team truly was a sweet, life-giving downpour and they left a lasting mark on our ministry. Sound worthwhile to you? Well then, we invite you to learn about how your church can partner with us in sending teams to Esther’s House.