There are so many reasons why so many people go on short-term missions trips. But sometimes our motivations for going aren’t always pure and right. What would happen if we couldn’t do certain things we typically do on a short-term mission trip? Would you still go? Consider the following questions and ask yourself if you would still go if you couldn’t do these.
Would you go on a short-term mission trip if you couldn’t take pictures? We love taking photos of the work we have done, the children and people we met and played with during our short-term missions trip. There is nothing wrong with wanting to capture these memories. But I wonder if our motivations are pure? Are we thinking about these pictures as a way to remember people or are we using the poor to get likes on our social media pages? Would we allow someone who we just met to do the same to our family? I know that if I met someone who I had just met wanted to take a photo of my kids so they can post it on their Instagram page without asking, I would be furious. So why would we do this with other children and families, especially those living in poverty? Please ask, be respectful and maybe not take those pictures.
Would you go on a short-term missions trip if you couldn’t do any work projects and only build relationships with the people in another country? Too often our short-term mission trips are only project-oriented and not relational. We as Americans love doing things, building houses, evangelistic outreaches and many “productive” activities. It is hard for us to just sit still, listen, and learn from the people who live their everyday lives in the places we go to serve. It is easy to get busy doing things to feel as though our trip has been productive. We need to remember that busyness does not equal being effective or productive. Don’t transplant the busyness of your lives back at home on your trip. Relationships are the number one thing God has called us to “do.”
Would you go on a short-term missions trip if you couldn’t go to another place next year? Missions should always be about relationships with the people we are serving with on our trips. It is nearly impossible to develop any type of good and meaningful relationships in one short week. What if you couldn’t go to a different place next year and you had to (get to) come back to the same community you did this year? Would you still go? Too often short-term missions groups jump from one community or country to another without making any real and meaningful relational connections. Take time to commit to one location for more than one year. Get to know the people you are working with for longer than one week. Build relationships as you will have a greater impact not only on the community you are serving, but your team will also benefit greatly.
Would you go on a short-term mission trip if you couldn’t donate any clothes, shoes or other used or slightly new items? Many times third-world countries, orphanages, and other ministries are dumping grounds for Americas unwanted or used clothing and other things. We believe that our used items that we no longer need or want are better to give away to needy families in other countries than to put in the garbage that ends up in our landfill. What we may not know is that most countries in the developing world (thrid world countries) do not have a garbage system and the things that are unwanted get burned or dumped into their landfills or hillsides. Yes, there are organizations that do receive a lot of our used goods like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. These places are equipped to collect and sort through and re-distribute these items. Most other ministries or organizations in the developing world do not have the capacity for these used and wanted items. Ask before you go if they are in need of any of your new or gently used items before taking them and be ok if they say “No.”
As you go, pleaes consider our motivations and actions. Are we truly going to serve others or serve ourselves. Let us “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:3-4