I’ve read recently (and in more than one place) that time spent defending yourself is time taken away from being focused on Christ (and being about his kingdom work). My life is not about me and my need to be right; it’s about him.
So please read these next words in light of that.
I’m sharing a criticism I received last week, not to defend myself, but to explore the whole thing a little deeper–to extract the truth (and toss the rest) and adjust my thoughts/actions accordingly.
A woman e-mailed me saying she refused to buy my e-book because it was becoming quite obvious that our Cambodia thing was no mission trip, but “more like a vacation.” When I offered to give her a copy for free, she said, “If I wanted a copy, I’d buy it. I’d hate to cut into your vacation fund.”
It stung at first, but I’ve added her to my prayer list and moved on. 😉
Here’s what’s right about what she said: our trip to Cambodia over Christmas won’t be a typical mission trip. For one thing, the amount of manual labor our girls can do (especially our 5-year-old) is limited.
And I’ve been poring over books and blog posts lately that invite the reader to take a serious look at mission trips to see if they might be (at best) a waste of money and (at worst) doing more harm than good to the recipients. (When Helping Hurts and Serving with Eyes Wide Open are two really good ones that I want to discuss in depth soon.)
One big reason we aren’t asking people to donate money to the trip is so we could feel the freedom to plan a more flexible agenda for our time in Cambodia. Then no one would feel like they weren’t getting enough missions-bang for their buck. (I don’t consider buying a $2.99 e-book a “donation” to a trip–you’re getting plenty for your money there.)
Other reasons include: we want the girls to feel the “pain” of sacrifice, hard work, and patience. There’s no instant gratification here. Much of our Cambodia fund has been earned 25 cents at a time. We’ve already gone to Cambodia once on somebody else’s dollar (100+ people’s dollars). I have no guilt or regrets about that, but this time we felt strongly that we needed to do it this way.
My e-mail friend, when asked if she’d ever been on a mission trip, said no, and she’d never go on one because 1.) there are so many needs right here at home and 2.) everyone who goes on mission trips comes back with photos of their safaris and all the sights they see.
I addressed #1 briefly on Monday. And #2? I see her point, I do, but I can’t judge someone’s heart. If they see a famous sight while they’re already halfway across the world, I’m not going to hold that against them.
And I’ll tell you right now that if we ever get to Kenya to meet the dear people my mother-in-law has spent a month with each of the past two years (she’s going back for another month in October), I’ll be darned if I come back to the States without seeing a giraffe in the wild.
But I can also honestly say that I’ve been on a mission trip where the only “sights” I saw were:
–a muddy river (viewed from a run-down boat)
–a genocide museum filled with human skulls and torture instruments
–a poor village notorious for child sex trafficking
–several grassroots organizations that help rehabilitate women who have been trafficked
Cambodia (at least the part I know) is not a vacation hot-spot, unless you’re an evil and perverted person looking for sick pleasure in a child brothel–the exact thing we’re going to Cambodia to combat.
And a typical family vacation usually involves something other than delivering supplies and care packages to orphanages and sitting in the dirt holding children who aren’t yours.
But here’s why our trip to Cambodia is, in many ways, a selfish venture. We fell madly in love with many, many people while we were there, and we’d give anything to be able to hug them, hold them, talk to them, and play with them again. And we desperately want to give our girls the opportunity to meet face-to-face these kiddos they’ve exchanged letters with, seen a thousand pictures/videos of, and prayed for every night for over a year.
And it’s not just the precious kiddos in the orphanage. There’s Panha and Veasna, two teenage brothers we Skype (and laugh) with often. And their family. And their dad’s new tuk-tuk.
There’s Yvonne, who has become a dear, dear friend, even though we’ve never met in real life. And Pastor and his wife. And Bun Ny. And Mike. And Alli and her girlies, Ruthie, and all their amazing teammates at Hard Places. And a slew of women/girls working hard to make a new life for themselves at Daughters and Bloom.
We miss them. We can’t wait to see them again. So, this thing is personal. And maybe that does fit the vacation descriptor. When I was a kid, vacation meant just that–visiting friends and family who lived in different parts of the country than we did.
But I digress.
And I knew I wouldn’t accomplish much in this first post, so tomorrow’s will actually answer a few questions (to the best of my ability), instead of just asking them. Questions like:
1. Why spend $12,000 on a mission trip when you could just give the money to the poor in Cambodia?
2. What exactly will you be doing while you’re there?
3. What makes a mission trip worth the investment anyway?
Feel free to respond to anything I’ve said, but keep in mind that I’ll be answering this stuff^ tomorrow (and that I’ll be gone most of the day here).
Semi-related question for you:
Do you love someone who lives (temporarily or permanently) across an ocean from you (spouse in the military, family/friends serving as missionaries or on business, people you met on a trip, etc.)?
Tell me about them and how you use technology to keep in touch.