When Gayle and Don Sommerfeld joined a construction team to Haiti in 1989, little did they know that their first steps in short-term missions would lead them to found a mission organization that has impacted over 230,000 lives in 50 countries—and counting. Finding no niche within the LCMS for mission trips of one to three weeks, the Sommerfelds built on their experience with another organization to lay the foundations of MOST Ministries—Mission Opportunities Short Term—now a Recognized Service Organization of the LCMS that has just marked its thirtieth anniversary. Progressive growth, from its humble beginnings in the Sommerfeld home, has led to the establishment of its own ministry center in Ann Arbor, Mich. where a staff of seven and a rotating volunteer corps of approximately 100 individuals provide support services.
In the past 30 years, MOST has had much to celebrate. Operating on a “field-driven” model, MOST sends teams to serve through specific projects requested by churches or missionaries in the host countries. Eyeglass teams are requested most frequently; but water purification, women’s and children’s ministry, construction, sewing, ESL, and other projects facilitate connections between local churches and the needs of their surrounding populations, breaking ground for sharing the Gospel. All teams incorporate evangelism into their programs, using colorful crocheted puppets with children, bracelets with colored beads with adults, and the pictorial “Evangecube” with all ages. However, even in restricted areas where such overt outreach has been forbidden, the love of Jesus manifested through MOST teams has led to surprising openings for the host churches. MOST’s eyeglass clinics have even been replicated in Latvia and Kyrgyzstan, and a new eyeglass ministry in South Africa has been birthed under the auspices of MOST and the Michigan District, LCMS within the past year.
Ideal for First-Timers
With 20 well-trained team leaders, thorough preparation of team members, a ministry center staff that makes travel arrangements and monitors health and safety issues, and caring follow-up, MOST is the ideal mission sender for nervous would-be missionaries, who may range in age from teens to octogenarians. The sense of security and satisfaction gained from performing well-defined acts of service leads many team members to return year after year. In the process, both team members and those who send and support them have often seen that steps of faith and obedience to the Holy Spirit lead to surprising revelations of God’s care and presence.
Current requests from the field show an ever-expanding geographic range of needs and possibilities, too often limited only by the availability of team members. Anyone who has ever considered short-term mission service may find out more by visiting mostministries.org. Be sure to read the profile on Gayle Sommerfeld in the Fall 2019 Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly or Gayle’s memoir Beyond Sight (co-authored with daughter Sandi Helm and available from the author).
In commemoration of the Thirtieth Anniversary, new “sending” supporters are offered the opportunity to participate in a “30/30 Challenge” seeking 30 new giving partners who will commit to a monthly automated gift of $30. However, new team members who manifest the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus on the field and those who undergird their service with prayer are most vitally important. To explore how you may fit into MOST Ministries as a “pray-er”, sender, or goer, please visit mostministries.org.
Photos courtesy of MOST Ministries