Servant Life Blog

Long Term Strategies


Christ followers are commanded in the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) to make disciples of all nations. This command to make disciples goes beyond evangelism and encourages sanctification and growth of other believers in the Church. One way that we as Servant Life seek to follow this command within short-term missions is with long-term strategies– one of our four Core Values.

In order to uphold this core value, “We serve our long-term missionaries within our network in whatever way best fits their needs.” Our goal is to “be a catalyst that stimulates their ministry opportunities for the other 51 weeks of the year” for each mission partner. If seeds planted during the one week that teams are serving are not watered and cared for the other 51 weeks of the year, the work done in that 5-10 days has failed the mission. We must not leave new relationships without means to grow.

So how do we do long-term strategy with short-term missions? Glad you asked.

We partner with ministers of the gospel who are in it for the long haul. Our mission partners develop relationships with the people of their cities that go far beyond one week of the year. Clubhouse Guatemala is involved in year round pastor training and community relationships that start during summers. Mission Bulgaria delivers shoeboxes of Christmas gifts to the children in the community during the holiday season and builds on relationships that are started during the summer for church planting. Missionaries in Cuba are teaching local pastors to be better communicators of the Gospel. Partners in Toronto and the UK are working daily to develop church plants and our time with them doing outreach helps establish those connections.

These are only a handful of examples and as you can gather, our teams sent during the summer plant seeds that our missionary partners water and harvest all year long. Our goal is to link in with their long-term vision during our short time together and be a catalyst for their year round ministry.

To bridge the gap between groups serving for one week and the remainder of the year for our mission partners, the A1eight Project was born. Through the A1eight Project (based on Acts 1:8-go read it!), college aged individuals can partner with these missionaries for an entire summer. They help host teams coming in and out each week all while aiding in long-term goals for the mission partner. Read more about it HERE and HERE and visit the Instagram account (@a1eightproject) to see more.

Without the goal of long-term relationships and lives forever changed by the Gospel of Jesus, one week out of the summer falls short of the purpose God intends for believers and for Servant Life. The work done in just seven (or five or ten) days multiplies when we support long-term ministry.

A Letter from our Executive Director

As we get into the holidays and the year closes, there is much to be thankful for related to the impact we saw on Servant Life trips. What immediately comes to my mind is the joy shared from one of our first groups to serve in Cuba; they saw 125 people profess faith in Christ during their week ministering to Cuban students and families.

We also heard…

“It was a great week with several coming to Christ … young and old alike!” – Phil B., Arkansas

“All of our ministry opportunities were great. We completely fell in love with the people of Bulgaria – especially the Roma…It was one of the best all-around mission trips I have ever taken a team on. God willing we will be returning to Bulgaria. I am praying that we can establish a long-term presence and partnership there.” – Brian P., Mississippi

“Best part-Many students were able to share the gospel, to disciple other students and adults, and to worship in unity with the Kunama (North Africa) people.” – Devin P., Missouri

“I loved getting to work with South Asians…I felt like I was in another country but really the whole time I was still in the states. It’s crazy how you can reach the nations in one city here in the U.S. I loved getting to learn about different religions and getting to work with those people. It really gave me a larger burden for the lost.” – Erin H., A1eight Participant in NYC

Your prayers and support are vital to the impact of these teams.

  • Please pray for those that are already going and that many more would be willing to go serve every tribe, tongue and nation. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Luke 10:2)
  • In 2017, Servant Life will have its largest year mobilizing over 800 students and leaders, but we cannot accomplish the task without the faithful support of partners like you. Your giving not only helps students go, but supports the daily work of each of our global partners on the field. Please consider joining our team with either a one-time or monthly financial support. * Give online here or via check mailed to PO Box 36307, Birmingham, AL 35236.

I trust you too have much to be thankful for and celebrate. Blessings to you and your family as we end 2016.


Until the whole world knows,

J. Roger Davis

Executive Director, Servant Life


*Servant Life is a 501c3 organization and donations are tax deductible.

*To give and be a part of the mission, click HERE. To go and be a part of a 2017 trip, click HERE.

This past summer, Dennis Johnsey brought his group to serve in Cuba, and we had a little Q&A session to hear all about it. Over the course of one week, their team saw over 125 professions of faith! Read below to hear about their experience.

Servant Life teams in Cuba will be serving with the Eastern Baptist Convention of Cuba. Teams might be involved in camp ministry, VBS, preaching in church services, relational community ministry (soccer, for example), and door-to-door evangelism and home visits. The trip cost is $999 plus airfare, and this amount includes a donation / scholarship to support camp ministry in Cuba. For more information, click here.

Q: For many people, considering a trip to Cuba is scary because of safety concerns. Can you speak into the safety of this trip? How was your team treated by Cubans?

A: “Cuba is a beautiful country with beautiful people, beautiful inside and out. Every church we visited we found people singing Hillsong and worshipping a mighty God. Safety was never an issue with our group. We went downtown at 8 p.m. and ate ice cream with people all around. We walked to city square and there were over 100 people there. We found they were very friendly. Cubans seemed to love Americans and loved having us in their homes.”

Q: What were the ministry opportunities like? How was your team able to share the gospel?

A: “Ministry in Cuba is multi-faceted. We brought materials for children’s church for Sunday and VBS supplies, so we could work with children in churches and youth at a two-day camp. They love to hear Americans preach, so we were able to do that. The biggest ministry that the churches do is door to door evangelism. So our team had the fast track on sharing their faith.”

Q: How did the trip impact your group personally? What did the Lord teach you?

A: “Cuba stands out among places we have ministered on Mission trips. Our team fell in love with the people. Most of the team had never shared their faith with a stranger or gone into strangers homes. Now it is second nature to them. I experienced on this trip how your team grows the most when they are pushed out of their comfort zone.”

Q: What would you say to a group leader who is considering leading a team to serve in Cuba?

A: “If a minister is considering a mission trip I would highly recommend Cuba. The response of the people is so rewarding. The trip is not any more difficult than other Latin America countries, and the food is very good. Whatever we asked of our host they were only too happy to accommodate us.”

To sign up for a trip to Cuba next summer or for more information on our partnership there, click here!



8 Tips for your Upcoming Mission Trip

And of course all good lists are alliterated. 

1. Prayer. Set up a prayer network with friends and family. Send out prayer cards with your picture and bullets of how people can pray. Be committed to prayer yourself. Commit the work you do and conversations you will have to the Lord! Check out Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” This work is not yours to do, it’s His!

2. Packing. Consider rolling your clothes to better use your space (and eliminate wrinkles). Wear your bulkiest items (jeans, sweatshirt, etc) on the plane and travel day. Pack in layers; where you go, mornings and evenings could be much cooler than the heat of the day. Be prepared for weather changes! 

3. Pro-tips for travel:

  • Make a copy of your passport and keep it in a separate piece of luggage (just in case!).
  • Create a special luggage identifier for your entire group’s bags (this can be a simple luggage tag or, if you like arts & crafts, can be a fun project!).
  • Look into your airline’s luggage fees! Some will waive your fee if you tell them you are on a mission trip whereas some may have free bags to specific countries. 
  • Be prepared for airport customs. Know the address of where you will be staying locally and be ready to tell the customs agent your reason for entering their country. 
  • Check your cell phone plan for international advantages and disadvantages. Some even offer free international texting!

4. Prevent unreasonable expectations. You are not a Christian superhero and you might not see hundreds of people surrender to the Lord. This trip probably will not go as you have always dreamed. Expectations that are not filled simply lead to discouragement and disappointment. You may not even see much fruit or results from your time there. THIS IS OK. 1 Corinthians 3:6 tells us that some are given the job of planting seeds; our ultimate responsibility is not to see results, but to be faithful to the Lord. Be grateful for whatever your role may be and support those who may be in a different role than you.

5. Prepare for a new cultureLearn some phrases in the local language. Show interest in the culture of those you are interacting with. Try to communicate and understand, even if it’s only the simplest phrases. Don’t be a tourist. Research the food you will be eating and be ready to try new things! Also prepare to be exposed to different living conditions and the culture shock it may bring. 

6. Plan to drop your plans. Be flexible! Remember things will not always go as you expect them to go (see again tip #4), and it’s your job to roll with what comes your way. A flexible team member with a positive attitude can be crucial at keeping the rest of the team on track.

7. Preserve your thoughts. Bring a journal. Document your thoughts, prayers, what you did each day, how the Lord moved, people you met, their stories and how they impacted you. These are special moments you will want to look back on for the rest of your life– and you won’t be able to recall them forever!

8. Praise and proclaim Christ (before, during, and after your trip). This one is most important.

Remember the purpose of your trip: for Christ to be made known to all peoples (including those in your hometown). Be prepared to share your story with those who have been praying for you and waiting to hear about the trip. Have a 30 second version ready to share about what God did and a 5 minute, longer version. You will not always have plenty of time to share, but be ready to give the key points in a short time. Think about a moment or person you met who impacted you there; tell those stories of what God did in those moments. Be careful to not exclusively share about the activities you did or things you built; always remember the purpose of those activities and the people you were able to love. Give God all the glory in all things!


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(*The base cost for this trip is covered by Servant Life and Clubhouse Guatemala. You are only responsible for airfare and a few meals.*)

In the Fall of 2015, Servant Life took a group of youth leaders down to Guatemala for a vision trip. It was a great opportunity to learn more about short-term trips in Guatemala and what a week of ministry would look like for a church group.

Because of the success of that trip and how beneficial it was for youth leaders, we are doing it again this November! From November 1-4, Servant Life and ministry partner Clubhouse Guatemala will be hosting prospective group leaders on another vision trip. Group leaders will be responsible for purchasing airfare as well as a few meals in-country, but all other expenses such as transportation and lodging will be covered.

This is a great opportunity for any group looking for a mission trip opportunity, especially for any leaders who would feel better about experiencing the setting before leading a group of students. If you are interested in joining us on this trip, please send an e-mail to, and we would love to give you more details!

Here’s what those who went on the trip last year had to say:

Anytime you can preview the mission work you will be doing and pray with the people who will preparing for your team’s ministry, it’s invaluable.  It was also meaningful to be able to post and share firsthand pictures and stories from where our students would be going in the midst of encouraging them to apply! – Trevor Brown, FBC Round Rock

Seeing the country and mission opportunity firsthand helped solidify my decision to serve this summer in Guatemala. The blessing I received was even greater than I could have expected. I can’t wait to serve this summer alongside others from my church. – Tina Wilson, Cave Spring Baptist Church

The vision trip was awesome! It really helped me to get an idea of what to expect for our students and leaders. It also helped us to be better prepared and how to best equip our group for the trip. Having the opportunity to see first hand what kind of ministry is happening in Guatemala really confirmed this was the trip for our students. – Jason Leschitz, Youth Pastor, FBC Daytona Beach

Whether you are going on a mission trip or are simply eager to learn more about Christian missions, there are an abundance of great resources available. From missionary biographies to textbooks on the theology of missions, it can be a little overwhelming to try to find the right book for you.
We have put together this simple list to help you find the book that fits your needs. It seems unfair to “rank” these books because they approach Christian missions from many different angles and cover many different topics.

With that in mind, we wholeheartedly recommend all ten of these! Since adding ten books to your reading list might be a little daunting, we encourage you to read the short blurb about each book to help you decide which few books might be the best fit for you.

There are MANY more books that we could have listed here. To see our even larger list of recommendations, go here.


Radical, by David Platt


This book is not so much about mission trips as it is about living a missional lifestyle. David Platt now serves as the president of the International Mission Board and has played a huge role in helping mobilize a generation of believers to the mission field.

“God blesses his people with extravagant grace so they might extend his extravagant glory to all peoples on the earth.” – David Platt, Radical


Ten Who Changed the World, by Danny Akin

If you are looking for a volume of missionary biographies, search no further. This book profiles ten different prominent missionaries from the last few centuries and looks at a passage of Scripture that fits each of their lifestyles. Missionary profiles include William Carey, Lottie Moon, Ann and Adoniram Judson, Jim Elliott, and others. Author Danny Akin serves as the president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Let the Nations be Glad, by John Piper

John Piper is a brilliant author and pastor, and in this book he lays out his understanding of our call to missions and connects it all to the glory of God.

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” – John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad


When Helping Hurts, by Corbett and Fikkert

One of the most widely acclaimed books for short-term missions among the impoverished, When Helping Hurts seeks to demonstrate that not all methods of ministry are beneficial in the long-term. This book helped shift many contemporary Christian mission efforts away from harmful practices. If you are trying to discern what kind of missional methodology is helpful and God-honoring when working among the poor, this is your book.

“Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do more harm than good. I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something. I am not okay, and you are not okay. But Jesus can fix us both.” – When Helping Hurts


Cross-Cultural Servanthood, by Duane Elmer

This book is simple to read, yet highly practical and profound in its application. Author Duane Elmer uses his missionary experience to explain the importance of entering a cross-cultural setting while retaining the humility and servant nature of Christ. We cannot assume that our ways of thinking and doing things will translate into other cultures. We must, in humility, lower ourselves in order to raise and exalt Christ.

“If God connected with us as a servant, that becomes the way we too connect with people of this world. While it runs counter to our natural desire, we have no choice. We are never more like Jesus than when we serve others.” – Duane Elmer, Cross-Cultural Servanthood

The Insanity of God
, by Nik Ripken

This book follows the journey of a missionary couple through all the ups and downs of life on the mission field. It is a remarkable story of intense faith and will certainly challenge you to consider how much you truly rely on the Lord as you carry out your faith. The Ripken’s story is an enjoyable read, but also an intense and compelling story about life in the Middle East.

“If we spend our lives so afraid of suffering, so averse to sacrifice, that we avoid even the risk of persecution or crucifixion, then we might never discover the true wonder, joy and power of a resurrection faith. Ironically, avoiding suffering could be the very thing that prevents us from partnering deeply with the Risen Jesus.” – Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God

The Missionary Call: Find Your Place in God’s Plan for the World
, by M. David Sills

This book serves as a great introduction for those who are considering the call to be a missionary. Sills deals with topics such as “What is the missionary call?”, “Understanding your missionary call,” and “Fulfilling the missionary call.” It is both an introduction to missions and a crash course on missions and life on the mission field.

“When God calls His child to live the life of a missionary, He gives them the desire with the calling.” – M. David Sills, The Missionary Call

Master Plan of Evangelism
, by Robert E. Coleman

Instead of focusing on cross-cultural missions, this book focuses on evangelism in general—which is of course a prerequisite for missions. Author Robert Coleman seeks to get to the heart of evangelism strategies by looking at the greatest missionary and evangelist of all time, Christ himself. If you are looking to grow as a communicator of the gospel, this is the book for you.

“It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.” – Coleman, Master Plan of Evangelism

Theology and Practice of Mission
, by Bruce Ashford

For those of you who are looking for a thorough, yet easy to read theology of Christian missions, this book is a great starting point. It does not feel as dense or overwhelming as a textbook, yet is rich in content. Editor Bruce Ashford covers topics related the mission of God and the church’s mission to the nations (including missions to specific people such as Muslims or postmoderns). He connects his understanding of missions back to the biblical grand narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

“One of the most significant challenges facing churches, agencies, and missionaries today is the imperative to allow Christian doctrine to shape their actual ministry practices.” – Ashford, Theology and Practice of Mission

Discovering Church Planting
, by J.D. Payne

While this hearty work is styled more like a textbook, it is an excellent read as J.D. Payne covers “the whats, whys, and hows of global church planting.” He argues for different biblical, historical, and missiological principles related to church planting strategies and methodologies. If God’s plan for the spread of the gospel is going to be accomplished through Kingdom communities (aka, “churches”), then it is important for believers to propagate the gospel in a biblical, God-honoring, Christ-exalting manner.

“Believers are not commanded to go into all the world and plant churches, but rather make disciples. It is in the process of making disciples (evangelism) that new churches (congregationalization) result. Biblical church planting is about using contextualized methods in a strategic manner to reach unbelievers, equip them as church leaders, and send them as evangelists and church planters throughout the world.” – J. D. Payne, Discovering Church Planting

Recently we welcomed 10 college students to our offices to train, equip, and prepare as they are sent out on mission for the summer. On the heels of the inaugural A1eight Project summer last year, we could not be more thrilled to introduce the college students who make up this year’s A1eight Project mid-term teams.

As mentioned in previous posts that you can find HERE, the A1eight Project is sending college students as summer long missionaries and teaming them up with our partners already on the field. By supporting the local missionaries each day, they will be helping to host the short term Servant Life teams each week.

Asking yourself how you can be a part? If you are between the ages of 18-25, we would love for you to apply the A1eight Project, summer 2017. Click here for the application! You can spend your summer ministering in countries like Bulgaria, Kenya, Guatemala, Canada, DR/ Haiti and more. This summer, A1eight teams will be serving in Guatemala and New York city!

As teams serve in these places, we ask primarily that you would join us in praying for these 10 students. Ask for endurance for the summer as well as hearts and hands that are prone to love those around them.

Get to know these summer missionaries! Each was asked to share something about themselves that someone may not learn or know upon a first conversation with them. Read what they chose to share! Without further adieu, give a warm welcome to the 2016 A1eight Project team members!

Serving in New York City

These A1eight Project missionaries will spend their summer alongside the staff of Urban Nations Outreach sharing the Gospel with refugees and internationals there through ESL classes and various aspects of community outreach. Learning from the church planters at UNO, this team will support the work being done there while also helping to host and guide short term mission teams.

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Serving in Guatemala:

These A1eight Project missionaries will spend their summer alongside the staff of Clubhouse Guatemala sharing the Gospel with nationals through summer camp and community outreach. Spending majority of their time with local children and their families, this team will also help host and guide the short term trips throughout the summer.

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Servant Life is excited to be offering a vision trip to Guatemala for prospective group leaders! Servant Life partners with Mike Parker and Clubhouse Guatemala to host short-term trips (as well as mid-term college students through the A1eight Project). After forming a relationship in 2014 and an incredible summer of ministry in 2015, we are excited to offer this vision trip for anyone interested in leading a team to Guatemala next summer.


  • November 2 – 5
  • All expenses in-country are covered (meals, lodging, ministry)
  • Airfare is at your expense
  • The vision trip team will include Servant Life staff, Clubhouse Guatemala staff, and prospective group leaders
  • Time will be spent seeing the ministry of Clubhouse Guatemala and possibly working with and equipping local pastors for ministry

This is a great opportunity for prospective group leaders who are interested in bringing a team to Guatemala. You will have the opportunity to meet the ministry team, experience the culture and ministry setting, and capture a vision for what God is doing in this country. As you experience the ministry firsthand, you will be a better at advocating and raising support from the rest of your church to return for a short-term mission trip. We respectfully ask that only those who are interested in leading their church on a trip to Guatemala contact us about this opportunity.

Because all in-country expenses will be covered by Clubhouse Guatemala, space is limited for this trip. If you are interested, please message us for more details at!



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New doors are opening in Cuba, and we are excited to announce a partnership in this island country! The culture of Cuba is rapidly changing as citizens are having increased exposure to the rest of the world through mediums such as the Internet and foreign travelers. The Church has been active in this country for many years, but Cuba is in a critical stage as people are deciding whether they will be influenced by the world or influenced by the Word of God.

You can join us to share the good news of Jesus Christ with this historic nation next summer! Servant Life is partnering with Christian Family Life to lead a team into Cuba. Groups will have a variety of ministry opportunities, ranging from sports ministry to VBS camps to other community events. Our hope is not only to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ to new ears, but to encourage and equip local pastors with training resources and help them engage their local communities.

After sending one team to Cuba in 2016, we hope to be able to add more weeks to the calendar and give more teams the opportunity to serve in 2017. Our desire is to see the hope of Christ spread to every corner of the country!

Contact us if you are interested in this opportunity by sending an e-mail to

When we contemplate what the Great Commission is all about, we either get excited or gripped by fear that we might not be walking in obedience to this great call. We may be terrified to share our faith with the neighbor next door or even dare to invite them to church, worse still share with them the truth that Jesus is the ONLY Way, the Truth and the Life. But wait, what is the worst that can happen? Rejection! Yes, we can and will get rejected because our Master the Lord Jesus was rejected too, remember! But our work of going and telling them must be done if we are to walk in obedience. We have to keep in mind that the gospel is an offense, so those in the dark will naturally play defense thus we should never be shocked if they reject Christ. Our work is done when we have GONE and TOLD them and the Holy Spirit picks up from where we have stopped and convicts them unto repentance. The message of a loving God who never gives up on us must be preached to one in the Slums in Africa who went to bed last night without a meal and also to one living in a sub-division in America with no space in their fridge for extra food, these two equally need the forgiveness of a loving Savior. The bottom line is that the Great Commission must be a non-negotiable commitment of every believer and congregation to go locally and globally.

Peter Abungu, Founder/Director – Swahiba Youth Networks, partner Organization of Servant Life