Short-Term Teams in Latin America: Do's and Don'ts

By Victor Ibagon
Colombian Pastor 

For the past 12 years, during my process as a national church planter, I’ve seen many teams that come not just to my city (Bogota, Colombia), but also to other cities in my country, and I have learned many things from those experiences.

When my friend, Carlos Chacon, asked me to write this few words, the first thing that came to my mind was Philippians 2:5-11

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What should be done? First, have the same attitude Jesus had in verse 5. I have seen on many occasions Jesus’ attitude in my Vineyard brothers and sisters with the short-term teams. They come with an open heart, wanting to learn as a child about our culture and context. Sometimes it’s hard for them, but if their attitude is right one, the Holy Spirit will do many things through them.

What shouldn’t be done? You shouldn’t believe that you know everything! The Anglo culture has a different worldview than the one we have here in the third world. Sometimes our brothers arrive thinking they are bringing 100 percent of the truth about form, content and strategy, but we need to understand that both sides need to learn from each other.

What should be done? In verse 6, see how Jesus never used his condition as God to his own advantage. Be humble, as this is the best way to development a deep relationship with people in our countries, we hear through our hearts!

What shouldn’t be done? Don’t have a hidden agenda! Walking in light is the best way to build a strong relationship and foundation in our context, if you want to teach us what God has given you, you have to be teachable also.

What should be done? According to verse 8, you should be available to give your own life for the goal to see the kingdom of God in total incarnation in our context. When you lay down your own culture and motivation, with the goal of showing your brothers and sisters the real Kingdom of God and his work through your life, you are being a servant of the Kingdom.

What shouldn’t be done? Looking for results too early for results without having faith that the fruits will come in the Lord’s time. This way, the only person who will have all the Glory for the harvest is the Lord, not the Vineyard local church or one short-term team.

In the end, the most important issue is that our friends embrace the fact that when you come to visit us, you’re being welcomed to an amazing cultural diversity where contextualization is really important. For example, most of the region speaks Spanish, but that doesn’t mean that everyone communicates in the same way, these cultural changes exist: Tortillas are basic from Mexico to Panama, but from Panama to the south, you will encounter Andean culture; Venezuela is really Caribbean; south cone is mostly European, and Brazil also feels as European.

We can’t put all Latin America in the same package. You need to pray and ask the Lord for him to show you how to learn from our plural culture continent; you have to be willing to move from your context into strategies that are relevant to our context -- that was the attitude that Jesus had.

In him,

Victor