Keith showed this article to me the other day, “Why Most Mission Trips Are a Waste of Time“. Now, first of all, the fact that my husband showed this to me cracks me up. This is the man who, before we met, went on a mission trip to Hawaii, people! I had to bite my tongue so much in the early years of our marriage. Oh, how God has worked in both our hearts through the years. Keith has changed me so much (see Rainbows In My Black & White World – I lean heavily to the black & white side which is why God blessed me with my rainbow hubby), but this is one area I’ve helped to change him. (The other being a separate post on attitudes about work, retirement, etc.)
As for Hawaii, this couple at University took a group every year to the poorest island to help a very poor church. They did VBS, painted, etc. Yes, they worked. NO, it was not a luxury trip. but in my eyes, they were crippling that church to a major extent. That congregation’s growth was severely stunted due to their leaning heavily on this crutch of a group of college kids coming to “do” for them every summer. Now, the black & white part of me wanted so badly to lamblast (Is that a word? ’cause I just used it.) the whole operation & badmouth it in our early marriage. I didn’t. In fact, on our way to Korea, we were able to have a free layover in HA so we joined that group for two weeks & had a great time. I wouldn’t trade those sweet memories for the world. The rainbow side has learned that God can & will still use us imperfect people who have imperfect programs & plans. That doesn’t mean we should keep on doing things in less than the best way. We should be constantly analyzing what we do to make sure we are doing the best vs. settling for the norm, whether that be in our family life or church ministry or work or what have you.
All that being said, I do think short term mission trips have their place. I never went on one, although I would’ve loved to as a kid. We hope to be able to go with each of our children on one before they leave our nest. Our overseas experience changed our perspective & lives forever. The problem is, unless you spend a good year in a different culture, you really don’t get a true taste of what it is like to be out of your comfort zone & “in the culture”. It takes a while to get past the novelty of being the “famous American” in a crowd of strangers & the shock of squat pots when you enter a restroom. The short term mission trip does however open your eyes to the fact that the American way is not the only way. And it gives you a fresh spin on your own culture. If you never see another one close up, it’s hard to really see what’s your culture & what’s just human nature. Those are valuable things to find out as a teen. I think it is valuable to have your perspective changed early on in that way. Just don’t think you’re saving the world through short term mission trips. I see them more as changing YOU than changing any people group you’re going to visit for the most part. Read the article. It’s the best I’ve seen on the subject!