A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.

The pitfalls of short term missions trips and aid appeals.

There is place for missions and aid appeals. However Darren Carlson is looking at a very pertinent issue. The draw backs of short term mission trips and aid initiatives….

I have seen with my own eyes or know of houses in Latin America that have been painted 20 times by 20 different short-term teams; fake orphanages in Uganda erected to get Westerners to give money; internet centers in India whose primary purpose is to ask Westerners for money; children in African countries purposefully mutilated by their parents so they would solicit sympathy while they beg; a New England-style church built by a Western team in Cameroon that is never used except when the team comes to visit; and slums filled with big-screen TVs and cell phone towers.

I have seen or know of teams of grandmothers who go to African countries and hold baby orphans for a week every year but don’t send a dime to help them otherwise; teams who build houses that never get used; teams that bring the best vacation Bible school material for evangelism when the national church can never bring people back to church unless they have the expensive Western material; teams that lead evangelistic crusades claiming commitments to Christ topping 5,000 every year in the same location with the same people attending.

Short-term missions is fraught with problems, and many wish such trips did not exist, at least in the common form today.

Writing in his book Toxic Charity, Robert Lupton says, “Contrary to popular belief, most missions trips and service projects do not: empower those being served, engender healthy cross-cultural relationships, improve quality of live, relieve poverty, change the lives of participants [or] increase support for long-term missions work.” Ouch!

It is not doom and gloom. Missions (short and long) do accomplish a lot more than is visible or measurable in physical terms but it is imperative that you also have a complete awareness of the setbacks of cross cultural ministry. (I would recommend you read the whole post here)
Last but not least, I encourage any one who has got an opportunity to go for missions for what ever period to make the most of it. Paul (Acts 17) spent a very short time in Thessalonica before he was chased away. But later when he heard of the report of the integrity and solidity of the church in Thessalonica he wrote the first letter to the Thessalonians in which was a glowing tribute of what God had accomplished in naturing, sustaining and establishing their faith. Not even the Corinthian, Galatians or Ephesians churches were commended like the church of the Thessalonians.
God uses small and short opportunities too to accomplish his own purposes according to His wise counsel.


2 responses to “The pitfalls of short term missions trips and aid appeals.

  1. bburleson June 22, 2012 at 12:02

    You make a good point, but I wouldn’t quite compare Paul’s missions to our short term missions. He took a small group, entered foreign territories on their own terms, and had his team work in the local economy. Often today we travel in huge groups with obnoxious t shirts only to “safe” areas. Additionally we often travel in a bubble of mini american pop culture and never submit to the lifestyle patterns of the destination. I’m not saying God doesn’t use these trips, just that let’s not say its the same as Paul.

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