In 2006 STCH Ministries launched our International Ministry, reaching out to the Dominican Republic, and recently we have begun the process of exploring God’s direction in other countries, such as Costa Rica. The groundwork for our international expansion was contained in the principles of the STCH Ministries mission statement: Honoring God, helping hurting children and families, and enabling others to join us in this work.
Honoring God through fulfilling the Great Commission—possibly there has never been a time when so many differing priorities compete for best use of resources. Multiple values, passions, opinions, and experiences affect the decision to expand into other countries. So how does STCH Ministries determine the what, the where, and the who of our next phase of growth?
In contemporary culture, big is the ultimate measure of success. It is tempting to focus on reporting thousands of conversions in a ten-day mission trip. Or to tout meeting physical needs— thousands of people fed, healed, or clothed. The Great Commission begins with sharing the Gospel, but includes the directive to make disciples—a slower and numbers-deficient process. Jesus, who invested heavily in only twelve disciples, informs the most effective model for ministry. STCH Ministries believes that investing in the development of capable leaders for tomorrow is the wisest use of resources, exponentially multiplying future ministries and leaders.
When STCH Ministries began working overseas, we sought an effective systemic approach to address short-term mission involvement. One of the keys was to find trusted, locally-owned ministries with a similar focus on helping children and families. We respect God’s call on individuals to reach their own culture, and we desire long-term relationships, so we work to identify resources and training that we can provide to enable them to fulfill their calling. As a result, the investment made by an American mission team will continue long after the team has gone home.
The first years of International Ministry were about building those relationships and establishing protocol for our ministry activities. Now as we look to future opportunities in another country, we will use that experience to guide our path.
Guidelines for Finding Trusted, Local Partners Internationally
- Do they have a history of commitment and faithfulness? Do we have a good report from credible people?
- Are their leaders competent and dedicated to their calling? Do they have a vision for the future?
- Do we have expertise and resources that they need? How can volunteer teams help?
- Accountability in finances—how are they funded? Do they work from a budget?
- Is there evidence and testimony of their primary dependence on God?
- If an orphanage or a school, do they have a priority relationship with a church? Do they focus on sharing the Gospel along with discipleship? Do they have sufficient staff, appropriately trained?
It takes considerable time to discover the answers to these questions, and some trial and error. As we did in the Dominican Republic, we have begun with visits to Costa Rica, during which we shared our vision and heard from local ministry leaders. In 2018 we hope to return with a few American volunteers who have been to the DR who can give us feedback on their perceptions of this new area. During future visits, we will share some resources such as groceries, school supplies, and clothing. Later, is there evidence that the children are using the school supplies or clothes donated? Is ministry staff present? Are the facilities maintained as best as can be expected?
We inquire about their needs and vision.
- Do they have a plan, and are they making efforts to achieve their plans?
- Or are they waiting or dependent on handouts? (We walk a fine line between helping and hurting with financial assistance.)
- Is the safety and well-being of children a priority?
- Are they willing to work with us and do they ask for our advice?
This part of the vetting process is crucial. Although we seek to nurture partnerships without imposing our American “right” ways of doing things, we must make sure that the foundation is biblical. As our president and CEO Eron Green often reminds us, “Partnerships can be messy!”
One more very important consideration for STCH Ministries is logistics. We evaluate several factors:
- Is the work something that fits family mission teams?
- Is there safety and political stability in the country?
- What is the distance, cost, and ease of travel?
- What accommodations can we provide in local transportation, lodging, and food?
As you can imagine, the process of expanding our International Ministry is a slow one, and that is how it should be. When a family decides to join a mission trip, traveling thousands of miles to an unfamiliar country with children in tow, they are trusting that STCH Ministries hasn’t taken any shortcuts!
Mission teams are also trusting that their labors will have an enduring impact, and that is why we put such an emphasis on collaborating with local partners for Kingdom work. When we co-labor, or labor with our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas, God moves in the work and accomplishes something greater than we can envision.
Stay tuned for more information in the coming year as STCH Ministries investigates new opportunities for international missions.