Mission Trips

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!

3 responses to “Mission Trips

  • realworldmartha

    A very thought provoking post!
    I think compassion could always be viewed as a waste of time and energy when dissecting it. I think you are right that it does change the people that go there although I have known people who go frequently and have to watch that they don’t become callus.
    I think that churches have to watch that they are teaching people to help themselves always but be there when they (we) fall as we always will.
    I guess in the end we have to be careful that we don’t over overanalyze helping people. We don’t live in a perfect world and we can’t wait to help them until the do the “right” things. At the same time we must use what God has given us wisely.
    It’s a fine edge isn’t it?

  • Mike

    You said, “Just don’t think you’re saving the world through short term mission trips. ”

    Now, I think I get what you’re saying about really understanding the culture of the people group you are serving (I spent 10 years off and on in the Middle East) but don’t you think it would be a little discouraging for folks gearing up for a 2-week mission trip to Guatemala to hear your comment?

    As all of us grow in our Christian walk, we will come to places where God calls us to serve. The great majority of us will only do it “part-time”. The rest of our lives are spent working, serving the local church and community and providing for our families – trying to raise them as best we can with the Bible as our guide.

    The mindset that I can’t change the world in 2 weeks strikes me as being along the same lines as a Pastor driving people to serve at a local church with phone call quotas, visitation logs, etc. It’s favoring process over truly letting the Holy Spirit lead us. Although God calls us through His Holy Word to be his messengers in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the Earth, the Bible also tells us that we all have different talents; those differences are what God will use for His purposes despite our best efforts.

    I respectfully disagree and believe God can change the world in a day, through the efforts of a sincere volunteer. That is not to take away from those who dedicate their lives to serving others in foreign countries, or even here at home. But let’s face it, We all can’t drop what we’re doing and become full-time missionaries. And if we did, it wouldn’t be sincere because God has not called us all to do that.

    I hope this doesn’t sound too harsh – I am not trying to criticize, but point out that we can’t limit the power of God’s work.

    God bless you and your family!

  • liberty92

    Did you read the article linked?

    The reason I put it as “Just don’t think you’re saving the world through short term mission trips” is because at times I see people raising all kinds of money, going year after year, etc. when if the truth be told, the money could better be spent sending Bibles or materials to the nationals, etc. rather than some foreigner under foot for a week, etc. Every mission trip isn’t all it’s billed to be. But when you put that word “mission” in front of it, sometimes these trips can be sold as more help than they really are. It’s kind of the magic word that people aren’t comfortable challenging. I really like how the article put it. It addresses this issue when I’ve thought it before, but never have seen it in writing & articulated in such a good way.

    Thanks for bringing this up so I could clarify.

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