August 24, 2021

Learning from the past to promote the future

Written by  Barry Freed
Barry Freed (left) and Peter Cook (right) will be embarking across the U.S. (and part of Mexico) to raise awareness for EMM's Advance program. Hilary Mashas/EMM Barry Freed (left) and Peter Cook (right) will be embarking across the U.S. (and part of Mexico) to raise awareness for EMM's Advance program. Hilary Mashas/EMM

EMM Support Team Coach Barry Freed is embarking on a cross-country motorcycle trip to listen to the stories of EMM short-term alumni. Barry’s goal is to raise awareness for EMM’s new short-term mission program called Advance, underscoring EMM’s long-term commitment to raising up young people to live out the gospel.

After graduating from high school, many of my friends and school classmates signed up for short-term mission opportunities like YES and YWAM. But not me. That wasn’t my thing. Despite the gentle peer pressure to participate and the repeated invitation from EMM’s recruiter (who was also a friend of the family), I kept saying “no” to this opportunity. Short-term missions simply weren’t on my heart.

Instead, I “watched” others participate. I saw growth and changes in them. It made me curious. Finally, a few years after completing college, I changed my mind. Somehow, I was now ready for YES -- the intensive training, communal living, and outreach to people in another country. I submitted my application.

But the reality that awaited me in the YES program was not what I had imagined the experience would be like. Not at all. During the training phase in Baltimore, my team of six young adults struggled with unity and was plagued by dysfunction. During the outreach phase, team member relationship issues persisted and were compounded by immersion in a different culture, a new-to-me spiritual stream, and evangelism tactics I found difficult. I was not having a mountain-top experience. I was having a deep valley experience.

It was in these circumstances that God became real to me. I called on Him and He was there, sustaining me. He gave me grace for teammates, patience for the culture, and wisdom during crises that arose. I was encouraged by reading the Book of James every day. I also began thanking God for the good things I could identify and the challenges that were pushing me to the end of myself. I shifted my dependence — which I typically sought from the people around me — to God.

Each person’s experience in a short-term mission outreach is different from the next person's. Some are terrifically positive and others are truly devastating. But while we may not understand how at the time, God is at work in each experience. I wanted a good time, but that wasn’t the “prescription” I needed to treat the spiritual condition I was in at the time. I would venture to say -- the personal growth I experienced from those eight months, far outweighed the impact I had on my teammates or the people I intended to serve.

Despite the difficulty of my YES experience, I appreciated what God had done in my life, and I became enthusiastic for other young adults to participate in the program --- to cross cultures, share Christ’s love with others, and experience their own transformation in the process. I am enthusiastic about EMM’s new short-term mission program, Advance, and the opportunity it provides individuals today to serve and grow personally. If you or someone you know are looking for a short-term mission opportunity, they can learn more at EMM.ORG/ADVANCE.

On August 26th, I will embark on an adventure to promote the Advance program. I plan on riding my motorcycle across the country, connecting with EMM alumni along the way, and hearing their short-term mission experiences. Joining me on this journey is Peter Cook, who is the former lead pastor of Alive Church Ephrata (Pa.) and will be starting a new role as the pastor of mission at Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Lebanon, Pa., in October.

I invite you to join me, vicariously, on this journey by following my adventure on EMM’s Facebook page.

Barry Freed serves as EMM’s Support Team coach. He also served as a long-term worker in Lithuania in addition to his experience with EMM’s YES program.

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Eastern Mennonite Missions

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