This is a quote from Serving with Eyes Wide Open:
Read the letters and listen to the reports before and after mission trips, and those who go on trips tend to emphasize the so-called spiritual things: the number of souls saved, the lessons learned about prayer and materialism, and the impact made up the church visited. However, sit down for coffee with a friend who has just returned from a trip or eavesdrop on the picture party from a returning group, and the adventure of life in a new place seems to be the emphasis. Such conversations are filled with stories about who got stopped going through customs, what it was like to eat the food, bartering the shopkeeper down to a ridiculous price, and experiencing the driving habits of the locals.
Let’s be honest. Along with the seemingly more noble reasons for going on a short-term mission trip, many of us love the adventure of it all.
Now do a reality check for yourself: If you’ve ever been on a mission trip before, how true is this of you? I remember hearing a speaker when I went to YWAM, who talked at length about how he had been to 53 different countries, etc. I found myself both envious, and starkly aware of how easy it would be for me to fulfill my desire for travel under the guise of ‘missionary.’
Obviously, just because we have ulterior motives doesn’t mean no trip should ever happen, but I think it does call us to question seriously both who goes on trips, and how the trips are advertised, discussed and attended.
For one, I think the ‘fun’ day at the end of the trip (every mission trip I’ve ever been on had something like this) should be completely done away with. This is just my opinion, but I find it to be a terrible idea for a church to take people, especially young people, who’ve just had an eye opening experience into the world, and then encourage (even require) them to suddenly become materialistic, shopping consumerist a moment later.
I’ll leave you with some of the examples given in the book from well known missions organizations. Teen Mania, who have sent tens of thousands of short-term ‘missionaries’ send out full page brochures and advertisements with
“Missions Should Be Fun!” Below it was a picture featuring a group of American youth pushing a really cool-looking canoe down a tropical-like river with a few “natives” in tow.
Or this church bulletin advertising a mission trip to Mexico, including this line:
And this trip isn’t a “rough-roach-in-your-bed” kind of experience either-we’ll be housed in nice clean hotel roomes, eat lots of salsa, and have plenty of time to shop!
…If you’re remotely interested in this adventure-or if you’re just in the mood for Mexico after all this winter weather-call for more details about this fantastic outreach opportunity.