October 7, 2019

When You Shouldn’t Take a Short-Term Mission Trip

I’m a big fan of short-term mission trips. In fact, I take multiple trips each year and bring others along with me to meet the children The Boaz Project serves, encourage their caregivers, and discover more of God’s heart for orphans…and the rest of us.

I believe that God uses each team and each team member to fulfill a unique purpose. Short-term mission projects have most certainly impacted me: my vocation, my spiritual growth, and my circle of friends. And I trust God has used those trips to impact my fellow team members and citizens of our host countries, as well.

So it may come as a surprise to you when I confess that there are instances when I believe staying home may be advised, times when forgoing a foreign adventure may be the wiser choice.

As you consider the following potential reasons for passing on a short-term trip, take an honest look at yourself and your motivations for considering one. Maybe you’ll decide it’s actually a good idea to forfeit, or maybe you’ll identify a less-than-healthy perspective that’s crept into your thinking, one that the Lord can help you adjust before take off.

It may be best not to take a short-term mission trip when:

1) You’re not open to the experience changing your life after the trip.

Short-Term Mission Trips are expensive but worthy investments if they change the way you think, spend, and pray. But even the investment in a ministry within the U.S. is wasted if it’s merely for a seven-to-fourteen day new experience for you.

Before joining a team, be certain you are willing to learn something from your hosts, prepared to share your experience with your church and supporters, and open to giving financially to support the ministry you’ve had first-hand experience with, as the Lord leads.

Only join a short-term mission project if you’re willing—eager even—to hear what God may be calling you to do in the long-term.

2) You refuse to spend a week without your creature comforts.

It may seem silly that I even mention a willingness to deal with hot temperatures, pesky insects, hard beds, unpredictable schedules, and a lack of internet as criteria for a short-term team member. Isn’t that a given when you leave your home country?

Yet I’m routinely surprised by team members who go to great lengths to replicate their home environment while they’re away. They want to be able to eat their usual comfort foods, instant message friends back home, go to bed on time, and wake up to a caramel cappuccino.

Please, if you go to the trouble and expense of visiting a foreign field, do all you can to immerse yourself in the culture for the brief time you are there. You may discover a new favorite food, a fresh routine that supports your spiritual journey, or a perspective that sticks with you forever!

3) Your objective is to see “how the other half lives.”

On the flip side, if your greatest goal for taking a short-term trip is to observe those who have less materially in the hopes of becoming more grateful for the stuff you have, I’d encourage you to do some soul searching before getting on that plane.

For one thing, Jesus loves all of us dearly. He calls us to enter one another’s lives with respect and dignity and to share one another’s burdens. Observing others with an emotional distance or participating in “poverty tourism” doesn’t fit the bill.

Secondly, you’re setting yourself up to be really disappointed when you discover that true joy is not found in all of your belongings. You may just meet some of the most fulfilled, spiritually mature, content people you’ve ever encountered while interacting with the poor.

4) You don’t care to learn about the culture.

If you’re not prepared to enter a new culture as a learner, going on a short-term trip may not only be unproductive but harmful.

Every person has been created uniquely by God and every culture has valuable lessons to offer. If you come with an ethnocentric perspective (believing your own culture does things the right way), you run the risk of jeopardizing the long-term work of missionaries who serve in that land by inadvertently offending someone or coming across as dismissive. You’re also likely to miss out on what God wants to teach you while you’re there!

5) You have no room in your life for new friends.

Over the years, I’ve realized that God has a habit of sending amazing people with hearts chasing after Him on short-term trips. I’m so privileged to rub elbows with them for several days and call many of them friends for life.

I’ve also been blessed to get to know brothers and sisters in Christ all around the globe and consider them friends and even family. They’ve prayed over me and tearfully shared their burdens with me. We’ve stood side-by-side, singing praises to our Lord. We’ve tried new foods together, enjoyed many good laughs, and learned from one another’s unique perspectives.

I cherish the friends God’s given me through short-term trips and would hate for you to miss out on the rich treasure they are. But if you’re unwilling to add a few new besties, you might want to avoid the trip all together.

As you can see, most of the reasons a short-term trip could be ill-advised are up to you.

If you’re open to a week or so without your creature comforts, willing to allow the experience to change you, prepared to enter into authentic relationships and ready to learn from a new culture, a short-term trip will likely give you the opportunity to do all of the above! Our 2020 trip dates are included in this email. Why don’t you join us?

As you remember The Boaz Project in prayer this month, please:

1) Ask God for short-term team members who are ready and willing to join us on a mission trip in 2020.

2) Continue to pray for personnel transitions in Russia

3) Request that God move the hearts of His people to provide the funds necessary for the multi-story apartment building we’ve committed to provide for orphans and their caregivers in Limuru, Kenya.

4) Ask God to protect our partners in India from persecution as they care for orphans.

1 Comment

  1. Brandi Ford says:

    April,

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve considered mission trips for a few years now and this has helped me search myself for readiness. I do pray for guidance with taking on a mission trip in the near future.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    Brandi

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