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Sustainable Missions on a Christian Gap Year

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It’s important to us that all of our World Race and Gap Year missionaries have an opportunity to connect with Jesus and what He’s doing, to be awakened and activated to their role in the Kingdom of God, both around the world and here in the United States. We are dedicated to ensuring these experiences happen in the context of a plan for sustainability, and we are constantly growing in our effort to make sure our service is actually helping.

World Race and Gap Year teams work with long-term base teams and strategic ministry partners that have a long-term plan for sustainability. And this week, Emma Austin spotlights the ministry partner her squad is currently working with in Costa Rica.

Meet My Ministry

For the next two months, my squad and I have the privilege to serve with “The Hope Project” (THP), also known as “Til He Returns” in the US. It is a poverty alleviation ministry started by an amazing couple named Micah and Melissa. They focus on long-term development of a community through healthy relationship building rather than short-term relief work.

Many short-term missions trips can become too heavily focused on coming into a community, trying to “fix” their problems, and leaving. Don’t get me wrong, this is helpful when relief is needed in a crisis or disaster, but most of the time, it just leaves the community with a diminished sense of dignity and hurting more than before. It also reduces the value of relationships, as people in the community feel like more of a problem or project to be undertaken rather than actual human beings.

At THP, their heart is to avoid this. A lot of our orientation was based off “When Helping Hurts” a book by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. A huge component necessary to doing short-term missions well is to redefine one’s sense of poverty. This means recognizing the fact that we’re all poor because poverty comes from broken relationships.

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THP looks at the four foundational relationships (relationship with God, self, others, and creation), and alleviating poverty through looking at ways to restore these relationships. They focus on first reshaping identity (grounding people in the word of God to show them that they are image-bearers of Christ), restoring dignity (showing them that they have something to share and are stewards over their gifts), and rebuilding families (because this is where ultimate discipleship happens).

With that, THP’s daily missions is to impact, restore, and disciple.

There are variety of ministries within THP that are vehicles for this mission. This past week, our squad was trained in each of these: English club, the Refuge (a pregnancy counseling center), Waves of Grace (a job skills training program), children’s ministry, and hospitality. THP also has a ministry called “House of Raw,” a dance studio that provides different kinds of classes! I am beyond excited to be a part of this!

The past two weeks here in Costa Rica, our squad has been going through orientation and some pretty thorough training. This is just because our ministry hosts want to equip and empower us to the best of their ability before we jump into full-time ministry. One of the best parts is that Micah and Melissa love to empower others to bring in their gifts, talents, and dreams into serving in each of the different ministries! Last week, we had a brainstorming session and thought of ways we could help out a little more around THP using our specific giftings.

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Because our squad has over 30 people, in order to serve THP better, we split into two groups: a morning group and an afternoon group. Each week, these groups alternate, so you’re not stuck with a morning or afternoon time slot for the whole three months.

Our sweet driver, Alfredo, drives us every week into the heart of San Jose to THP. Because there are two groups that switch “shifts” during that time, there’s a little bit of overlap. During this time, we will have either discipleship or Spanish classes! Discipleship will look different all the time, but recently it has been a teaching from someone at the ministry and/or some worship as a squad! So cool.

One of my highlights from this past week of training was participating in a dance class that House of Raw put on. They needed some promotional content for their website and social media, so a few squadmates and I participated while some others documented it! It was such a fun way to support their ministry!

“The head of the dance program has a BIG heart for young men and women involved in gangs and drug violence and teaching them how to use dance as a creative outlet. This ministry is also a way to bring ‘light into the darkness’ of the dance world, and the dancers who have been around for a while compete in national competitions, where their testimonies have a big impact on the other dancers they meet.”

See more of what getting creative with this ministry looks like here.

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Another highlight which I briefly touched on earlier in this blog was brainstorming ideas we want to implement into the ministries that we feel passionate about! I love that the staff has already encouraged us so much to discover and grow in our individual gifts.

I love this ministry; I love what they do, and the heart behind what they do. The Lord truly blessed us with the opportunity to partner with them!

You can find even more information about this partner in sustainable missions from my squadmate’s blog!

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