Overseas Mission Trips: Do They Serve a Legitimate Purpose?

by Dave Miller on July 8, 2012 · 26 comments

I’m heading on a mission trip on Thursday, to Taiwan. I recounted the provision of God in a blog post yesterday.  It was amazing.

But some have pointed out how expensive mission trips are. We will spend between $15,000 to $18,000 on this trip.  I will preach around 15 times in 9 days, and our team will lead youth group ministries, lead worship and do other tasks at a missionary conference.

It’s a lot of money for the ministry we are doing.  Is it valuable?  Is it worth it? It is cost-effective in terms of ministry? Tough questions.

Some say that mission trips are a waste of time and money. They would point out that with the same $15,000, a lot of ministry could be done in Taiwan by local pastors.  Some have claimed that overseas missions trips are little more than vacations masquerading as ministry, a pretty extreme view.  Some have pointed out that Americans swooping in to do work the nationals could and should do for themselves can create unhealthy dependency. Some question the fact that folks will travel around the world to proclaim Christ, but not across the street. The wave of mission trips in the 80s and 90s started a backlash in which some have questioned the efficacy of the practice.

So, what do you think?

Here’s some of my thoughts:

1) Each of the criticisms has some legitimacy. 

Some mission trips have caused problems overseas – when the team becomes more of a burden than a blessing.  However, that does not mean that all mission teams are a burden.

2) Mission trips need to work in cooperation with and serve the purposes of the missionaries and national ministries.

In Cedar Rapids, we had several teams from Tennessee come up to help us build our building.  Every one of those teams was a blessing, but there was one that was a little more difficult than the others. Most of the teams came up and said, “What can we do to help you?” One of the mission teams, from a very large church, had more of a dominating spirit.  “Here’s what we are going to do for you!” they (sort of) said. They helped us, but on their terms. And, while they were the biggest of the teams, they were the ones we thought accomplished the least.

When we go as short-term volunteers, we need to make sure that our work is not a burden, but a blessing to the missionaries, that we are helping them and not just helping ourselves.

3) Mission trips change the lives of those on mission trips.

I’ve seen it over and over again. Going overseas, seeing the work of God outside your little hamlet; it is a life-changing event. My daughter went last time, and would tell you that when she went she was a Christian whose walk with God was lethargic at best. The two weeks in Taiwan in 2012 changed her.  She is studying for missions at Cedarville.  We cannot discount the effect this trips have on the lives of the young people (and old) who go on them.

I’d love to see research on the missions offerings and general missions giving of churches that go on trips and those who don’t.  I’m guessing that the mission trips often tap the well instead of capping it.

My Conclusion

Mission trips are, all in all, a valuable thing.  They must be done in such a way that they bless the work and do not burden it.  But they can be a valuable tool.

Tell us what you think.

 

1 Bob Cleveland July 8, 2012 at 9:23 am

OK .. I’ll jump in. First, mission trips settled one thing for me, that I wrestled with in my early 30′s. I’m not called to be a missionary. Immediately after that was settled, God revealed, scripturally, what I was to be.

Second, the people we’ve ministered to on our mission trips have uniformly said we’ve blessed them and helped them. I’ve got a Bible full of signatures of people in Russia, Latvia, Jamaica, Nassau and places like Virginia, who’ve said so.

I could point to the love of God shared, personally, with people in those same places that left indelible marks in my mind.

Oh yes .. I recall going back by invitation to speak at the Dedication Ceremony of the Community Outreach Centre at Red Hills Baptist Church, which we’d helped build. I believe the folks there thought our trips were worth it.

But that’s me, and my experience from the trips I went on. Others would have to speak for themselves.

2 Josh Collins July 8, 2012 at 9:37 am

I believe you have pointed out some of the difficulties short-term mission trips must work around well. Another resource many should read is “Toxic Charity” by Robert Lupton. (I’ve also heard good things about a book called “When Helping Hurts”)

Now that we are in New York, we will be on the receiving end of short term teams in the coming years. I believe one of the biggest helps teams can do is your point 2. Listen to those on the field, both missionaries and locals. Take your planning cues from them and the needs they express to you. If a group has trouble listening to a local partnering missionary or church and attempting to understand their concerns and viewpoint, then likely they will have trouble communicating the Gospel cross-culturally to lost people within that culture as well.

Good thoughts, Dave.

3 Les July 8, 2012 at 10:01 am

Dave,

This is a much needed conversation. I will be leaving Wednesday for Haiti. It will be my 14th trip in a little over two years. I lead groups there 5-6 times each year now. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned, and am still learning, and how we try to practice.

1. All three of your points are spot on. Peopl have legitimate questions about the amount of money, time, etc. we need to have good answers. Working with the missionaries and what THEIR needs are is vital. And, these trips can and do often have profound I pacts on the ones going.

2. We have learned alot from the two books Josh above recommends, Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts. Our groups do not do construction, as that removes a hammer from a very poor, unemployed local. We minimize taking “stuff” like clothes, food, toys, etc. to give away. These also can harm a local strugglng entrepreneur trying to sell locally. I could go on, but suffice it to say that these two books point out the differences in relief work and development work and of course sharing the gospel should always be part of what is happening in some way.

3. The locals tell us what a blessing we are. I know that’s not always the case. I’ve heard some missionaries lament now hard it is on them to babysit a bunch of soft Americans who have come to “help.” and, they tell stories of a building getting painted 10 times. But mostly what I hear is what an encouragement the teams are, assuming they aren’t consumed with “fixing” things and don’t need babysitting.

4. The impact back here is immeasurable. When God does something in the person, and they come back and tell their story, the impact is exponential, not only in engaging others in missions, but in financial impact. So yes the cost is high sometimes. But God multiplies as He is surely able to do.

I could go on. But thanks for the topic.

Les

4 Bruce H. July 8, 2012 at 10:32 am

If you have ever seen the missionary movie “Beyond the Next Mountain” you would know that the short visit, if purposed by God, has a great impact whether seen or unseen. The most important thing to me would be, have you proven that it is God’s will to go to Taiwan and do what you are going to do. Romans 12: 1,2 indicates that we can and should prove the will of God. If that point is not clear you are wasting God’s time and money and will be held accountable. Just say it is God’s will and I will be praying for you. I will pray anyway, but the Holy Spirit will have to interpret my prayer.

I love their food! :-)

5 David Rogers July 8, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I am grateful for the various short-term teams and workers who came to serve alongside of us during our 18 years in Spain. Practically all of them were a blessing in one way or another, and God is able to use us for His glory and for the advance of His kingdom whenever and wherever we are obedient to His Word and sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

That being said, I do believe we have a responsibility to be the best stewards we possibly can with the resources God entrusts into our hands. The truth is that there are certain tasks on the mission field that require a long-term approach, and we are naive, and perhaps a bit overly self-confident, to think we can somehow do in 1 or 2 weeks what long-term workers have been working diligently to accomplish over years of costly perseverance. It is easy in the excitement and adrenaline of a positive short-term mission experience to convince yourself you have accomplished more than you really have. Barriers of language, culture, credibility, and spiritual darkness are very real, and it is wrong to minimize the importance of the efforts long-term workers must make at overcoming them.

Also, it is important to try, as best as possible, to put yourself in the place of the national believers (and unbelievers) and to consider how your short-term trip looks through their eyes. In most places around the world, they see it as something only the extremely wealthy would be able to do. Though they may be positively impressed by the financial sacrifice you are willing to make in order to come all the way around the world to serve them, they may also be somewhat envious of you, knowing they themselves could never dream of doing the same thing. They will also almost certainly look at the money you spend and wonder what type of standards of stewardship guide your life and ministry. If what they see when they ask these questions is a sincere commitment to sacrifice and do whatever is needed for the advance of God’s kingdom, this can be a good thing. But, on the other hand, if what they see, is a careless and haphazard use of precious resources, this can be a bad thing.

There are certain types of ministry that, although short-term, really are a good stewardship of resources. Dave, I think the type of trip you and your team are doing in Taiwan is a good example of one of these. You are providing ministry service to long-term workers in a way that may otherwise be very inaccessible for them. You are making an important contribution to the ongoing discipleship and spiritual and practical nurture of their families. I am very grateful for the impact of the various groups who came to serve our IMB missionary family down through the years at our Annual Mission Gatherings.

It is usually important to coordinate short-term efforts carefully with long-term workers. However, you must be aware of several pitfalls. There are some long-term missionaries who fill up their ministry schedules hosting volunteer teams because it makes it look like they are actually doing something important on the field. These missionaries are also often overly fond of the perks that come along with hosting a lot of short-term teams. And they are the ones who will often tell you in exaggerated terms how wonderfully strategic your contribution is to their long-term ministry. Don’t be overly critical, but it is good to be aware of this potential factor.

National pastors and other Christians can also be influenced by the potential financial benefits (whether immediately or long-term) your visit may have for their ministry, or personal situation. It is generally a good thing to get to know and fellowship with national believers as much as possible, but, once again, without being overly skeptical, keep in mind this potential factor that may be motivating the way they relate to you.

At this stage it is tempting to get frustrated, and think, “What’s the use? I’ll just keep my money and spend it closer to home.” This is also a mistake. As Christians, we are called to a life of sacrifice and generosity, and we ought to show solidarity in practical ways with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. But we must be wise and we must be good stewards. As Americans we have the tendency to think that the answer to any problem is throwing money at it. But what makes a bigger difference a lot of time is long-term commitment, deep relationships, and vulnerability.

There is a lot more I could say, but this is already way too long.

6 William Thornton July 8, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I sign on to David R’s insightful comment above.

I am less enthused about such missions than I have been over the years and question its value in long term mission strategy. I’ll never do another mission trip that isn’t connected to a long term worker and our IMB and I like the IMB’s program to connect churches to unreached people groups.

I impute none of the negative things to Dave Miller and his group. One of my wife’s formative experiences involved a MT to Taiwan way back when.

Have a good trip.

7 Patricia Duff July 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Dave, you raise a number of valid points and concerns, as do the above responses. As a field missionary in Guatemala, I’d like to add my two cents:

A benefit that has not been mentioned is that most of us who serve full time in missions first explored the call through short term trips. For me, my trips to various countries in Latin America helped prepare me for my long term service, as well as help me discern exactly where God was calling me.

Coming to the mission field, whether for a week or a lifetime, really is more about obeying God than it is about accomplishing anything. He is already at work in the mission field, but chooses to invite us to join in His work in particular areas. I do believe, though, that He often invites us to come and BE in relationship with nationals more than to come and DO what they could do themselves.

I believe, as you said, the life change that can happen for individuals is worth every penny they spend on a short term trip. We need to train our teams to come expecting God to work IN as well as through them. I’ve been known to say at times, “Come hungry” for what God is going to show you about Himself, His people and yourself while you’re out of you comfort zone.

God bless you on your trip and may your eyes be open to all He is doing in and through you.

8 Ben Woods July 8, 2012 at 9:20 pm

Dave, you raise some good points….and stewardship is a legitimate issue.

I think that it is main a question of strategy…..are you coming to do something that cannot be easily done locally? I think that, in your case, the answer is yes. On the other hand, if a church is spending $20k a year to send a team somewhere to build a house….when the house could be built for $1000….something is very, very wrong with that (especially if they aren’t even giving that much to longer-term missionary causes.)

Now, it’s not that I think that people shouldn’t go and build houses…it is fine to do so….but don’t tie up the money of the church when that money could be used to have local, skilled, Christian people, build 20 houses, to your one (and then they have money to feed their families, to boot!)

Sorry if I am kind of rambling….it’s been a long day…but my main point is that I think that people are too quick to expect the church to finance their trips. If I need to spend 2 weeks building houses in South America for the sake of my own spiritual walk…..then I should work my butt off to earn the money to go, but if a long-term missionary needs a small army to canvas the mountains of China, on the other hand….lets arise as the church and send them a small army!

9 Lee Saunders July 8, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I have participated in only one overseas short-term mission trip, and I think the keys to its success in the eyes of the locals was how well trained and prepared the participants were. It took a year of meeting together, hearing about the specific needs of the church we were helping, and brushing up on Spanish. The local missionary and two local pastors directed the work. The team consisted of college students who were qualified by their prior knowledge of Spanish and understanding of mission service as a spiritual calling, not just a “good thing to do.”

I’m not an advocate of taking youth groups on short term overseas missions. Aside from the liabilities involved, there’s not always a maturity level present that allows for the kind of understanding necessary for the trip’s purpose to be accomplished. I’ve seen kids come back from overseas trips scratching their heads over what they really accomplished, frustrated at the language barrier and at having to wonder whether they really accomplished anything that made the trip worthwhile. A group of youth from my last church in Texas spent $40,000 over three years on trips to Costa Rica and Japan, and came back with videos that were 90% about the tourist places they’d visited, and very little of the actual work that was done. The kids themselves couldn’t really tell much about the mission work. There are plenty of opportunities for youth groups to do some real good through mission projects in this country, and the SBC has some great programs like World Changers to do this, give them some real training, a real taste of real missions, and prepare them for something more meaningful and beneficial later on.

10 Greg Harvey July 9, 2012 at 10:57 am

My nephew just returned from a World Changers trip to Puerto Rico. Similarly, my daughter just returned from what I would call a ministry-exposure trip to Denver. Let’s be honest: both are high school-age teenagers and neither became “saints” because of the trip. The hope is the exposure meant something to them.

And that pretty much is the promise of mission trips: that the person who goes is exposed to the possibilities of making a difference via ministry and/or evangelism. David R’s comment needs to be read four or five times by anyone with a hankering to do this kind of tactical missions work. And that’s how it should be handled: a tactical deployment designed to meet an emerging spiritual need in conjunction with a well-considered strategy that is a continuing effort.

I’m NOT questioning Dave Miller’s sincerity or the sense of leadership he experienced, but the ambitions and motivations of pastors leading trips often are deserving of steering/oversight from a somewhat cautious group of experienced leaders.

My favorite example of this is tours of Israel. The tour group contacts the pastor and offers a certain number of comped trips for each paid trip. Which turns the pastor into a paid salesperson and usually without full disclosure of the benefits to the congregation. We have a similar scam that is played out at Linn Mar High School every year in a distinctly non-religious setting, just so it doesn’t look like I’m just picking on Promise Land-bound trips…

Baptists have developed an instinct for a well-considered allergy to “too good to be true” thought processes. If that carefulness can be put into place in these kinds of endeavors, it can lead to both a very helpful transparency AND better planning, preparation, and training. It all can start with the central question in Dave’s article: “what are we really going to accomplish?”

11 Dale Pugh July 9, 2012 at 10:59 am

Humility and flexibility are keys to the success of short-term mission trips. Those going on the trip should recognize that the local missionary and nationals are much better equipped to know and understand the needs on the field. Any group going with the “this is what we’ll do for you” mentality should be told to stay home. Period.
I dealt with this on an associational level in Oregon. We were developing a partnership with an association in Texas. The entire time of their “exploratory” trip was “this is what we can do for you.” Finally, in a meeting of all the pastors with the group from that association, I stated that I wasn’t interested in the partnership because of the arrogance displayed by such a mentality. Every Texan was offended. Every Oregonian was relieved that someone had stated publicly what they sensed but didn’t want to say. That partnership moved forward, but the mentality never changed and it was a complete failure.
We must realize that mission trips probably accomplish more in our own lives than they do on the mission field. We aren’t there long enough to make any lasting impact. We may, however, make an eternal impact in some lives. And the encouragement it can be to local Christians should never be minimized.
I do agree, though, with the concerns of others here and would say that the expenditures should be balanced by the goals of such a trip. Sounds to me like you’re doing what you’ve been asked to do, Dave. Go, and may your days there be fruitful!

12 John Fariss July 9, 2012 at 11:59 am

Dave, your closing statement is that short-term mission trips are a tool. I agree with that; and this tool, like any other, can be effectively used or it can be abused; it can help construct a house and provide a living, or it can destroy and kill–accidentially or deliberately. Like any tool, the one who uses it should be gifted, trained , and skilled in its use. For physical tools, that may come from schooling, OJT, or giftedness, and before someone is let loose with a tool, there should be supervision. In fact, doesn’t that apply with mission trips as tools too? Make sure the need is real by coordination with on-site missionaries, and make sure the group knows how to perform the task needed, through local supervisors. The pastor may have the best of intentions, but he still has a vested interest in the trip and perhaps limited experience, so there should be some outside supervision, i.e., a DOM or someone trusted in the state or regional convention structure, or maybe the IMB.

John

13 Bruce McGovern July 9, 2012 at 2:42 pm

I was raised Catholic. The first Protestant church I attended, over 20 years ago, was a few miles north of Dave Miller’s church in Cedar Rapids. The church, Fundamentalist non-denominational, gave about equal amounts for church operation as for missions. I am talking, by memory, of $100,000 a year for missions from a small town church. So, we had many visitors every year seeking funding.

Shortly after Russia opened up, a local group went there to hand out tracts and Bibles, I think that was Moscow, not sure by memory.

A young mother from the church went along rather hesitantly. When she gave a talk on her trip, she had the whole church in tears. She said when they handed out the tracts, people would simply stop and read them. Someone was separated from the group and found them by following the readers who were reading in the street.

An elderly man was so emotionally affected by the tract they gave him that she dug out her last Bible and handed to him. He burst into tears and walked around shouting at everyone that he had a Bible. I finally realized that it was around 73 years that Russia shut down religion. He may well have been a practicing Christian in 1917.

We also had a young man come once to present his mission work. I think he had also been in Russia. He got fired up, and told us many missionaries were simply on paid vacation in an exotic place.

Sometimes, the mission board will obtain two or three family apartments and change them to make one large apartment for one mission couple, instead of them “getting down in the dirt” and living and eating like the locals do. And, he said they will be very proud if they obtain one conversion after months. I think he suddenly realized what he was saying, and started back-pedaling. But, the church members told him not to worry, and I think he got good funding.

When my wife and I go to church in the US, and people find out where we live, they inevitably ask if we are missionaries. I tell them, no, the Mexican Protestant evangelists are very motivated and do not need help.

And, I have thought about it over the years. This nation is mostly (backslider) Catholic, yet there are some very active Protestant evangelists. I have tried to make up a list of things that foreign missionaries might do in my region, and there is nothing on the list.

Even money donations would probably be counter-productive, if the locals decided they need do nothing but wait for the next check.

And, it is really easy to commit cultural faux pas and alienate local people.

In my region, there are free government hospitals. So, even medical missionaries would be a waste of time. There are places that could use medical missionaries, but those places tend to be very primitive and dangerous. Places in Chiapis, and in the mountains to the North where the Tarahumara Indians live. In those places, if someone is not saved by medical care, there is a tendency to kill the doctor.

I can see short-term mission work might be very beneficial as motivation to the short-term missionaries.

I also think Wycliffe did a lot of good in their time, making the basic Gospel available to indigenous people. Anne Williams is still kindly remembered by older folks in her village. Now that literacy in Spanish is very nearly universal, that, too, is now not needed.

14 Jim Pemberton July 9, 2012 at 3:17 pm

A. It’s important to count the cost.
B. It’s important to go anyway.
C. Do not discount God’s ability to overcome restrictive costs.

One thing I have observed is that after the initial romance of the first couple of trips, people start to encounter the difficulties inherent in doing ministry in a fallen world. This is an important learning curve to doing mature ministry anywhere. The cost of ministry is more than simply monetary. But the yield is always God’s. Dealing with spiritual immaturity in ourselves and in others in order to minister alongside them is where the rubber meets the road perhaps more so than in actually doing the ministry. (And I dare say that if more of us did missions, then the comment threads here would be a far happier place much of the time.)

Also, I have to observe that short-term missions yields more effective home-town ministry. That’s been my experience at least.

One last thing. Many people do third world jungle-ish mission trips and get the idea that building projects, food distibution, healthcare clinics, lovin’ on the poor children in orphanages, and then maybe you’ll get the courage to share the gospel are basic meat and potatoes missions. The cutting-edge missions are the ones you rarely hear about because they are often security-sensitive:

* Try going to a major metropolis on one continent specifically to distribute Bibles and share the gospel one-on-one with people who visit there in droves from a closed country on another continent.
* Imagine supporting an underground communications network to reach people from closed countries.
* How about teaching Christian servants in another country to disciple their employers?
* Since there are local Christians, how about holding conferences to help raise up godly and effective leadership among them or bringing training to help them learn how to plant churches in their neighboring communities?

These things and more are happening today and these are very exciting times to see God’s hand at work. Stay at home or go and bring back a healthy taste of the action.

15 Paul Thompson July 9, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I think it is good to think this stuff out. It is important to note there is a difference in a ‘mission trip’ and a ‘ministry trip’. I think they are valuable to the sender, the goer and the receiver. All have different components and results.

I have discovered in the multiple places and reasons for going that I must guard my heart and mind from what happens when things don’t go the way we expect them to go. Over the past eleven years my church has sent people to 9 different countries to do a variety of ministry and mission work. It wasn’t until we experienced hardship and jail time in Haiti that we realized when things go array we have to be better prepared for the ‘fall out’. I received hateful voice mails, emails and letters from pastors and missionaries. Some even wishing I would rot in Hell because of the shame we were to them. It is possible that things can go strangely wrong and yet even serve the kingdom work of the gospel.

It is possible that mission/ministry trips can ‘hinder’ the work by unsuspecting, selfish, arrogant workers.

But we must also remember that there is a real enemy who is looking to destroy the gospel work. I often wonder if the apostle Paul was scorned by the early church for being arrested? Did they write nasty blog post about him when he was arrested and blamed for hindering the advance of the gospel because of his bad publicity?

May the Lord grant all going to various places boldness to speak the gospel; yes, even boldness that will bear the markings of shame and reproach of the cross.

16 Stephen M Young II July 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Let me jump in too. I went on a short-term mission trip my sophomore year in college. It woke something up inside of me. Five years later, I led a group of adults on a similar mission trip. What happened was not nearly as “BIG” as we thought in hindsight, but it led me to spending 10 years of my life here as a missionary, where awesome things have happened regularly. We did our two-week trips for about $1500 per person (Back in 1996 and 2001).

I’ve been supported here for about $6000-$8000 a year for 10 years, and we’ve made tents to meet ends.

Yes, a lot of short term trips can be a waste. Yes, some can do more harm than good. Just like any ministry project or idea, it can be abused and badly. That said, if God is directing, and we are learning in the process, and we are wise about how we do what we do, we should go forward.

I would like to challenge a church to try their best to try a mission trip using Luke 10 as a strategy, though. A lot tougher (sheep among wolves), but the result is we go with the humility of Christ and much unseen power.

17 Stephen M Young II July 10, 2012 at 9:34 pm

You know, I remember something that can also be helpful in thinking this through. There is something called “The 7 Standards of Excellence.” It is a recommendation of best practice for short-term missions.

As I remember them, it goes something like this.

1. The trip should be God-centered
2. The trip should be borne out of, or lead to mutual partnerships.
3. The trip should be designed from both ends (those going and those receiving.)
4. There must be qualified leadership.
5. There should be comprehensive administration.
6. Participants should have appropriate training.
7. There must be thorough follow-up.

You can probably Google this and find something more extensive.

(I would say that we nailed numbers 1, 2, 3 and 7, on the one I led. I doubt I was qualified, though. I know I wasn’t very comprehensive in the administration. Our training was done in 4 Sunday afternoons. So, we probably failed 4, 5, and 6)

18 Bruce H. July 10, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Where is God’s will? If it is God’s will the 7 points you make would work. If not, what then?

19 Christiane July 10, 2012 at 11:38 pm

BRUCE,
here is God’s Will:

“Then Jesus came to them
and said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.”

God’s Will is found in the Gospel of St. Matthew 28

for two thousand years, Christian people have responded to God’s will as they are ‘sent forth’ . . . EVERY Christian baptized in the Holy
Spirit has an apostolic mission to ‘go forth’
. . . the very same mission that the Apostles responded to after Pentecost . . . Christians will be ‘sent forth’ until Our Lord comes again.

It’s DAVID’s turn now.
Pray for him.

20 Jim Pemberton July 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

Stephen, I would say that’s a noble list and worth pursuing. As it is, it doesn’t come with particularly quantifiable or definitive benchmarks for assessing each item, but that’s not a bad thing. What, for example, is “qualified leadership”? The answer may differ depending on the mission.

I really like #7. The reason is because it isn’t often done very well, particularly with people who profess new faith. You generally have to trust the local church or missionary to do the follow up. One mission we have reaches people who live in a place that’s different from where we reach them, and there isn’t necessarily a local church in their area. There may be covert workers or an underground church nearby, but communicating with them and connecting them is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, it must be done. Other missions we have takes people back to the same locations to build relationships with people we’ve already reached and continue to nurture relationships between the local churches and those people. There’s something to be said in general for taking the word of a foreigner over your next-door neighbor – something about a prophet not being welcome in his own home town. But knowing that your faith is not merely a local phenomenon is an encouragement to participate with your neighbors in this thing called “church” so that you can grow. So it aids in the follow up process.

21 MK July 17, 2012 at 11:29 am

I lived in Veracruz, MX during highschool with a missionary family who was there for a few years serving at the local church. Groups of Americans would come and stay with us and we would drive them to the surrounding jungle areas where they could find something to fix. Countless trips if not all of them that I remember involved about a dozen young adults, men & women, huddled around a 2-man job, like putting a door on a house or running electricity to a bathroom. I, along with the locals, sat back and watched, and I mostly tried to stay out of the locals’ hair, embarrassed at how the Americans didnt realize that in a sense, were mocking the culture. My personal experience with these various 2 week mission trips that I tagged along with, sadly, showed very little productivity for the people that they came to serve, & if anything, took from them in resources- one week we stayed at this family’s home that did not have much food or water- I was fine not bathing but it seemed most everyone else had to bathe, all the time, then brush their teeth, then use more water for this or that, then use their food; they killed 3 chickens for us while we were there & were fishing all day long in order to provide for us. My conclusion
about short term missions trips: they are about the people who take them,
what I mean is that they are for changing the “American” or whoever it is
doing the traveling. Which is fine, especially when you hear of the change that God has done in someone who removed themselves from their comfortable surroundings to a third world country, comes back changed because he or she is so thankful for what he has, etc…this is just my
insider perspective who saw both the giving and receiving sides of
missions. I wonder what it would be like if the 1500-2000$ raised per person for the trip was instead given to one of those families or churches, if that could go further than the sitting around in a third world country waiting to fix something approach?

22 Frank L. September 26, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Sadly, this kind of anecdotal evidence is badly skewed. Sort of like taking a political poll.

If anecdotal evidence counts for anything, I could give you 10 stories to 1 that show how mission trips greatly benefit the host people and greatly impact the mission group.

Like so many responses “exaggeration and extremism” can poison the discussion.

I don’t doubt MK’s account. I’m sure this happens more often than it should, but it is by no means the norm, especially if the mission is sponsored in partnership with our IMB missionaries.

Again, I don’t doubt MK’s account, but I would say it is far from the norm.

23 Steve July 24, 2012 at 11:25 am

My doctoral research shows that involving students in ministry and missions supports the hypothesis that students involved in ministry and missions are much more likely to have a faith of their own that is strong thoughout high school, continue into college and into their marriage. This is significant! On the other hand, for generations, just hearing testimonies from missionaries has been the catalyst for many to seriously consider becoming missionaries. Balance is the key–Biblical missions is to our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world.

24 Amy September 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Here’s a question I did not see posed. Why in the world do those going on mission trips expect others to pay for it? I have a friend who went to Romania on a 10-day trip. Four of the days were spent traveling. So, for $3,000 he played with children at camp. He discussed at length how wonderful it was, and how it had really changed his life. That’s fine and well, but if he wants to spend 6 days playing with children, participating in an experience which broadened his horizons, he should pay for it. I am involved in dog rescue. $3,000 would go a really long way in helping homeless animals. I just don’t get it, and I believe it’s absurd.

25 Dave Miller September 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Wow. You seem kinda angry. Look, unless someone was forced to give money against their will, I don’t see the problem. We had people going to Ethiopia to work with orphans and do medical missions. They couldn’t afford it. So, the church did fund-raisers and people gave. For our mission trip this summer, we did fund-raisers and people gave.

You cynicism oozes here, but I’m guessing that the ministry was a little more than “playing with children.” Most mission trips involve more than just play. He probably did some genuine ministry.

I’m not sure why you are so angry about this, but next time, just don’t give!

26 John Wylie September 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm

Amy,

Even comparing mission trips to animal rescue is a little on the absurd side. If what this man did was impact even a single child for a eternity it’s more important than rescuing a thousand dogs.

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