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November 08, 2013

South Asia: Doing Life Together

A mentorship program uses missionary life as a catalyst for spiritual growth.

  • Walking Alongside

    Short-term missionaries learn what it's really like on the field by experiencing daily life with Ted and Rachel MacKinney.

Meetings over coffee. Walks around the community. Game nights. Dinner together. For Ted and Rachel MacKinney, these are what mentorship looks like. Such experiences are the building blocks of the mentorship program they have run for years, which favors simply hanging out over any sort of formal curriculum.

“Those don’t make up part of a formal mentoring program, but when they watch your life, they’re learning about overseas ministry,” Rachel says.

The program gives short-term missionaries the opportunity to walk alongside the MacKinneys and other TEAM workers in South Asia and experience daily life in their shoes. Breaking bread together and serving with local missionaries allows visitors to gain experience and learn what life is really like on the field.

Medical missionaries, the MacKinneys have mentored hundreds of people and couples over the last 29 years since they were married. “I have had a heart for mentoring as far back as nursing school in the early 80s,” she says. “I have more of a sense of urgency to mentor, develop and encourage the next generation of international mission workers over the last few years.”

While serving in South Asia, this informal approach to training often leads to repeat trips for short-term missionaries. The MacKinneys, along with other TEAM missionaries passionate about mentorship, invest their lives into visitors who come for medical missions as well as another area of ministry the couple is involved in, working with victims of human trafficking.

When a short-term missionary arrives, the MacKinneys schedule time for them to learn basic language skills so they’re able to participate in daily life without having to rely on translators. Medical students and residents study basic medical vocabulary so they can follow along with discussions as they practice and observe patients and doctors. They set up meetings with locals so short-term missionaries can learn about the culture, as well as gleaning tips for acclimating to South Asia for the duration of their trip.

Many of the short-term visitors choose to return to South Asia after their initial trip because of their experience during the mentorship program, something the missionaries encourage.

“We leave the door open for continuing to communicate,” Rachel says. “It’s more of just openness to say if you’d like to continue [to serve], we welcome that.”

Some of the medical students come expecting to help people and gain invaluable medical experience, but leave changed in other ways. Take Amy, who spent 10 weeks doing medical mission work. She recently wrote an email to Rachel thanking her for mentoring her spiritually while in South Asia. She didn’t go to South Asia primarily for spiritual growth, but she experienced it while studying medicine under Ted.

Two young women who completed their mentorships with the MacKinneys recently expressed a desire to return. They both are college students who helped in the human trafficking portion of the MacKinneys ministry.

Because of their willingness to invest in the lives of others, the MacKinneys are multiplying ministry efforts across the globe.

“I really do love the people that the Lord brings our way and am happy to pour myself into helping them grow in understanding of who the Lord wants them to be and to be successful in the ministry that they are called to by God,” Rachel says.

For more information about getting involved in a short-term ministry opportunity in South Asia, visit

-Written by Cara Davis
-Photo provided by the MacKinneys