Good news for Tsh and Kyle!!!

Here's an interesting article on short-term missions and whether or not the folks who go on some of them are properly motivated.

While of course, not all groups have the same priorities, I was particularly fascinated with the idea expressed by the head of the missions organization quoted in the article that the primary purpose of the trips should be for the "spiritural growth" of the missionaries with a seemingly dismissive comment about making any impact on the indigenous people -- particularly "That's how Jesus intended it to be...".

"Therefore, go and make disciples of all the 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 of you... and don't forget to take a few days and stay in a nice hotel and get some sightseeing in...."


Tsh said...

I only had a chance to peruse the article because You-Know-Who is crying (no, not Kyle), but I totally second everything this guy says. This has been a topic for some time within the candidate program - namely, what is the purpose of a short-term mission trip? Because they're here to stay. There was no such thing even just 50 years ago, b/c to go overseas, you usually went via boat, and that took months. When Hudson Taylor went to China, it took him 6 months to get there. When Gladys Aylward when to China in the 1930s, she did take a furlough - 17 YEARS LATER. Her parents didn't even recognize her at the train station. It's amazing.

Kyle and I often wonder whether we'd be going overseas if we lived 100 years ago, when it took that kind of commitment. I wish I could say yes, but I honestly don't know.

It seems kind-of a rite-of-passage for highschoolers in the American Church to go to Mexico for a week. And I'm fine with that. Heck, that's where I first got interested in missions, and same with plenty of my friends. But they are definitely there for their own heart-shaping, NOT to directly benefit the Mexicans. In fact, few and far between are the short-term trips that are truly there to benefit the locals. Even as prayerful adults, trips under two weeks are mostly to serve the missionaries themselves - as in, encourage them, give them a break, help out their longer-term ministry (i.e., paint a building). The added benefit is that the short-termer widens their heart to the world just by being there and interacting with the locals - but it is very rare that they actually "convert" a local or do much evangelism at all. It's really good that this is conveyed clearly to the participants before they go, to have the right perspective in mind. They should submit themselves to the Lord for whatever He wants them to experience, not to go change the world. That's the case for us long-termers, too, I suppose.

Practically speaking... For us, short-term trips would mostly consist of prayer walking. As in, a small group of adults (or MAYBE students) come in as tourists, praying for the area and possibly making connections and research for us to follow-up on. We're also interested in the basic concept of a "family vacation with a purpose" - family friends come visit us, but in doing so, they catch a vision for being more World Christians. Or whatever God wants them to see.

Okay, I'm done now. Obviously this is a topic I've mulled over in the past... Thanks for bringing it up, Josh. It's pretty deep stuff for you.

joshblog said...

Great stuff, Tsh. I was actually thinking the next morning that I was more put off by the tone of the article than the actual idea of the short-term trips themselves. As I re-read my post, it sounds pretty snotty, and I'm embarrassed by that.

We've actually talked alot about wanting to do a short-term trip or trips at some point. I think you're absolutely right about even short term trips serving the longer-term missionaries/ministries, and I guess that's what's been the draw for me, the chance to provide encouragement and some help, albeit just a little bit. Your point about widening hearts and submitting to what God wants you to see and learn is awesome as well.

I guess where I got hung up was the sense that like so much else in our culture, these trips are more about the "me" than the "other". My fear is that some folks go on these trips, get a little dirty, have a little adventure and think they've made a real sacrifice for the world and others and have met their "Christian obligation" for the year, and pat themselves on the backs for helping out those poor natives. And while I'm sure there's some of that that goes on, as a whole, I think the opportunity for true heart-shaping is probably what I should focus on more. I also know God has, and still is, fixing alot of me so that I can better serve Him and others.

Good stuff.