From July 26th to August 7th, 2021, a team of three women–Elise Mann, April Mann, and Anna Gallo–painted plywood boards, knocked on doors, played games with children, and ate dinner with a different family every night. It was a two-week version of what normally happens over four to five weeks with a larger group. It was the Reformed Presbyterian Missions (RPM) Pittsburgh Short Term Mission Trip 2021: the abridged version. 

Why RP Missions Sent Them

The Pittsburgh trip is an opportunity for those in the US who are not able to go abroad–whether because of their age, their health, the cost, or something else. Having a trip within the US opens the opportunity to serve to people who otherwise may not be able to. 

The trip also provides just that: an opportunity to serve. According to Keith Mann, Director of RP Missions, this trip is still an opportunity for team members to gain a new perspective on missions. That’s because Pittsburgh short-termers receive the same training as those who are planning to go abroad. And they learn that part of bringing the gospel to all nations means bringing the gospel to our neighbors next door (or in the next state over). 

The area of Pittsburgh to which they go (Wilkinsburg) is an area ripe for ministry. Covenant Fellowship has been in this area for decades and has become a part of its tight-knit community. Their ministry here allows short-termers to experience a different culture from what many have likely experienced, and to see what missions within a local church can look like.

Why They Went

Team leader Elise Mann (from Laramie, Wyoming RPC), originally signed up to go on a short-term trip to Japan- as had April Mann (from Colorado Springs, Colorado). But because of Covid-19 restrictions, the Japan trip had to be delayed. So, both were asked if they would consider switching to the Pittsburgh trip. 

“When I saw a description of the Pittsburgh trip,” Elise said, “it was exactly geared towards things where I knew I needed to grow. The Lord placed me where I needed to be.”

Our final teammate, Anna Gallo (from Rochester, New York), had no plans for a missions trip until about two weeks before the Pittsburgh trip, when she received an email from Keith stating their need for more participants. With the encouragement of her pastor, she decided to go. But although it was a last-minute decision, it was one in fitting with Anna’s conviction about the centrality of the unity of the global church: “What is my goal as a Christian in this life?” she asked when we talked. “To serve Christ, and that’s primarily through a corporate lens: I serve with the church, we bear each other’s burdens. The unity in the church is how people know we’re Christians and that God sent Jesus to die for us. We’re doing ‘together-evangelism.’”

What Happened

The team spent much of their time cutting and painting plywood boards to resemble doors and windows. Those boards would be nailed to the empty frames of abandoned houses throughout Wilkinsburg in the church’s annual “Transform the Triangle” community workday, which included members of Covenant Fellowship and other churches in the area, as well as other people from the community. Over 50 people spent the bulk of August 7 nailing up boards and clearing properties of trash and overgrown weeds – a witness to the people watching of their love for each other, for the community, and of Christ’s love for them.

In the evenings, the team did other activities such as manning a prayer booth, door-to-door evangelism, or helping with Covenant Fellowship’s Kidzone program – a weekly evening of snacks, games, and a Bible lesson for kids in the community. All three of team members commented that they appreciated that they were participating in work that the church was already doing, and learning from those who did it. “This is what I hope for for all local churches,” said Anna. “Not these activities specifically, but ones that are community-specific: corporate, gospel-centered service to the community.”

What They Learned

The Pittsburgh trip happens each year because the church asks for it – it’s driven by their needs and their desire to serve the community. But as is the case for many who go on short-term trips, the team felt they benefitted as much or more than they were able to give. There’s something rich to having time dedicated to serving, fellowshipping, and worshiping. 

“The biggest takeaway,” said Elise, “would be the mutual encouragement and delight from fellowshipping with believers. The Lord has designed it to be a blessing to bless others.” 

As for April, she is thankful for God’s giving her a better perspective on global missions: “I think that before, I thought of it as something that either you’re called to or you’re not, and I mostly thought that I wasn’t. But I realized that global missions is for the whole church. Even if you’re not going on an international mission trip, we are all called to be sending those who are going into the mission field. That was really eye-opening to me – the other half of those who go to mission are those who send.” 

Encouragement for You

This mission trip is not just about the women who went on this trip, or the church they went to, or the community they served. It’s actually partially about you. Why?

  1. You’re part of the global church – rejoice in the work being done for it! Praise God for the workers he has raised up, both short- and long-term. 
  2. “If you’re Christ’s you’re called to missions” (said April) – so consider how you might be a part of the sending or the going. Cultivate your desire to serve Christ and his church grow and think about how you might do missions in your community with your local church.
  3. You may consider going on a trip or taking the training – Consider whether you may be able to support a church or long-term missionaries through a trip. Whether or not you can go on a trip, you may find the RPGM Explore training to be a helpful tool to develop your awareness of God’s heart for the nations as seen in the Scriptures, and of the missions work that is being done through RPGM

Thanks to Tori Mann for this report.  Tori is a student at RPTS and also works part time in the admissions department. Tori, joined in some of the work with the RP Missions team and interviewed each member of the team to gather information for the report.

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