Short Term Trip, Long Term Gain
I have a theoretical question for you:
What if I told you that a short-term mission team from the church was going to go serve in Kenya (or anywhere else in the world), but this team didn’t have a VBS planned, they had no intention of building a house, or giving medical services to the locals. The sole purpose of the team was to go and encourage the missionaries there, and observe their life, the culture, and the people. Would you support that trip? Would you give to that mission’s team?
Last night I had a short conversation with a friend in regard to short term missions. Lovingly and graciously they said something to the effect of, “Sometimes I find it hard to give to short term missions. Especially because, at times, I feel like I’m funding someone’s vacation rather than a trip that will build God’s Kingdom.” Their statement really made me think about the purpose of short term trips in general. The reality is that the annual dollars spent on worldwide short term missions is in the Billions. Because of that, it’s no wonder why we could, and I would argue, should, feel a tension toward giving to short term teams. The amount we spend on short term trips raises all sorts of questions about how our money can best be used, and about the needs that can actually be met in the period of one to two weeks.
Let me address the above by arguing that short term missions is not primarily about meeting needs, doing work, or solving problems. If that’s the primary motivation of a short term mission trip, chances are that it’ll be effective at completing a work project, or it’ll be a temporary fix to problem, but it won’t ultimately move the needle on the issues of large scale poverty, or reaching the lost in the community. As Brian Fikkert writes in the book Helping Without Hurting,
“If we are spending… thousands of dollars on a trip, we need a different set of goals, namely entering into a long-term intentional process of learning about and engaging with what God is doing in our own country and around the globe – and supporting the people who can alleviate poverty in their own communities. It doesn’t seem as tidy as digging wells… or running sports camps, but… it can foster deeper change in both the receiving community and our own lives.”
As you know, a group of 15 students and adults are in the process of preparing to go out on a short term trip to Peru this Summer. As we’ve met over the past month, we’ve been talking about what our goal is in going. Yes, we’ll prepare to love Peruvian kiddos in children’s home’s by running a VBS, and yes, we’ll offer to build, paint, repair, etc. But our goal in going is not in doing those things. The goal is that these 11 students and 4 adults would come back with a long term heart for world missions. Going on a short term trip for a short term benefit isn’t worth it. That’s why we’re gearing up to go on a short term trip with the hope and prayer of long term gain!
Friday, March 29th you have an opportunity to be a part of spurring on long term missions work at the Mission’s Auction! The students going are excited to have the opportunity to serve you all, and to share their gifts, talents, and abilities with you all. We’ll also have the opportunity to celebrate world missions, and to pray as a church that this team and EBC as a whole would be focused on the short term missions with the hope of longer terms gains.