I’ve written about my complicated feelings concerning short-term mission trips several times. Here, here, here, and here for starters. I even wrote an e-book about the two short-term (1-week & 5-week) trips we’ve taken to Cambodia.
I can’t defend short-term trips across the board (because I’ve seen/heard some not-so-great stuff), but our family has tried our very best to make sure we’re doing things right. Not perfect (no way) and not to everyone else’s approval standards (impossible), but in a respectful, dignified, mutually beneficial way as much as we can.
So, I read this article from Relevant magazine tonight that Troy Livesay (his better half, Tara, is a dear online friend I’ve chatted with and prayed for lots) linked to. And I just loved it. It was affirming (and convicting), and I want to share the main points along with a brief summary of how we’re trying to do what the author suggests when it comes to mission trips.
Hopefully, it will come across as informative and heart-sharing, not defensive or braggy.
The article is called Things No One Tells You About Short-Term Mission Trips (by Michelle Acker Perez @ Relevant Magazine).
Here are the things you need to know about being effective on a short-term trip: Those will be in bold; my comments in (parentheses).
1. You’re Not a Hero. (Amen. This we know for sure.)
2. Poverty Can Look Different Than You Expect. (The author explains that if we say, “I’m so blessed to have so much when they have so little,” we’ve missed the point. There’s lots of kinds of poverty. We’re all broken and need Jesus.)
3. Historical Context Can Be Just As Important as Immediate Context. (Yes. You’ve got to know the history of Cambodia–the Khmer Rouge and all that entails–to even begin to understand why things are the way they are in that country.)
4. Don’t Do a Job People Can Do For Themselves. (I feel pretty strongly about this. Our biggest “jobs” we do on our trips are relationship-building, playing, photographing, story-telling, and teaching computer skills–Gabe, not me. Nothing that takes away from what locals can do.)
5. Learning Takes Place in the Context of Reciprocal Relationships. (We need our friends in Cambodia just as much as they “need” us. We cherish their friendship, desire their prayers, and love what they can teach us about their lives and culture. And we love staying in touch with them via Skype and Facebook. It’s super-duper reciprocal. If anything, they give us more than we give them.)
6. There Is Something Special About Going. (Oh, goodness. You ain’t kidding. Special isn’t a strong enough word for the desire that burns in my heart.)
7. Don’t Raise $1000 for the Week and Then Give Nothing Else the Rest of the Year. (This one is very important to us. We try very hard to give much throughout the year–and inspire others to give as well.)
8. You Don’t Have to Fly in an Airplane to Serve the Poor. (100% true story. And, for anyone who really knows us, they know this isn’t an issue. This isn’t a “Why are you going across the world when there are poor people right here in America?” deal. We’re passionate about the people who live in our community. Specifically, the refugees who live right next to us in our apartment complex. It’s not local or global. It’s both/and.)
That’s all. Just thankful for this author’s words and have Cambodia on my heart and mind tonight.
Anything you’d add or take away from the article? Any short-term mission trip experiences (good, bad, or ugly) you’d like to share?