Today, we’re carrying on our conversation from the last few posts. If you’re new here and you came because you heard the Very Worst Missionary is funny or crazy or foul-mouthed or whatever, you might want to check out something more fun/less churchy, like this, or this, or this.
If you’re here to talk about the impact of short-term missions, then let’s do this thing. Some of you said:
#1. The purpose of a short-term mission is to change the “heart/life/perspective/values” of the person going and isn’t really about the ones being served.
I totally agree… except for the parts where I don’t.
Undoubtedly, a short-term missions trip can change its participants. There are tons of stories in previous comments from people who were changed because of their experience on a short-term team. There is certainly a lot to be gained from pushing ourselves past our comfort-zones, learning about a new culture, and even from coming face-to-face with poverty.
A short-term missions trip changed my life. But, honestly? So did FoodNetwork.
I’m not kidding. FoodNetwork introduced me to a whole new world of cooking and new ways of feeding my family. Some of the things I’ve seen on FoodNetwork have challenged me to make changes that have made our lives better, improved our state of wellbeing, and even given us a boost financially. But what I find really cool is that others (I’m thinking of my sisters, but perhaps there are other others) have observed how and what I cook and they’ve been inspired to make changes of their own, so that in the end, FoodNetwork has changed, like, a lot of lives.
If you’re wondering what my point is... so am I... no wait, it’s this: If we are indeed being changed by short-term missions, if STM’s are having a real, lasting impact on our heart, life, perspective and values, then those changes should be evident in our everyday stuff, and the ripple effect of change should be apparent within our homes, churches and communities. (Um. Ok. This is the part where you yell at me for “judging someone’s heart”, so I’ll just say, I’m not suggesting that we judge each other’s spirit, but that we be on the lookout for the fruit of the spirit in our own lives, homes, and churches. …. And? For what it’s worth, I felt entirely too convicted by my own hypocrisy when I typed that. Ick!)
But you can see the fruit of Foodnetwork in my life. It’s there. It’s apparent. It’s obvious to those who know me that I have been transformed by FoodNetwork. So there.
The frustration of the short-term experience is that it often does change your life… for a minute. But it can change your life for forever!
The challenge for pastors, leaders and participants of a short-term team, is to take all of that experience, and all of that passion, and all of those stories that are walking off the plane at the end of two weeks and guide them into real, tangible, Spirit-filled change. That’s when Missions stops being something that your church does and starts being something that your Church is. That’s when the value of a short-term team reaches beyond the scope of the individual and into the DNA of your community. That’s when short-term missions turn into the long-term Faith.
But that’s not all.
And this is where it get’s ugly…
When you carry the above statement through to it’s finale, you read “It’s about me and it’s gonna change me and blah, blah, blah and then you get to “it’s not really about the people being served”, and…
…*blink blink*…. Really?!
You don’t get to meddle in any person’s life, in any way, at any time ~especially in the name of Jesus~ and then say “Sorry, this is not about you.”
The people who’s paths you cross in this life deserve to be treated with care and respect no matter their circumstance, no matter their lifestyle, no matter their level of education, no matter the color of their skin, no matter their language, and no matter their need.
It is the responsibility of the sending church, the participants, and the long-term missionaries on the ground, to work-together to make sure that while they’re busily transforming their inner-selves, they aren’t doing so to the detriment of the rest of God’s awesome and beloved creation.
We need to stop rationalizing the things we’re doing with statements like “it’s not about them” (please, never say that again) and start analyzing what we’re doing and its real impact on the people we’re doing it to… I mean, for.
Just my thoughts.
…. …. ….
Does your church work with short-term teams to help facilitate real life change after a trip?
Oh, and how about that FoodNetwork? ;)