Headlines from First Thoughts

Monday, June 26, 2006

Missions: Experiences, Relationships, Lifestyle

USA Today says that Mission trips may do more harm than good. I'm sure that's the same argument people made before the idea of "partnership missions" became so popular. During the great missions movements of the 40 and 50s, people empowered individuals to leave churches and "Rescue the Perishing" in foreign lands. With the global village at our doorstep, we have grown in our understanding of missions. Everyone is a missionary. Each Christian has the apostolic call. Macedonia is Main Street.

Partnership missions or short-term mission trips have been the primary catalyst driving international service since the 1970s. We should distinguish between experiences, relationships, and lifestyle missions, however.

USA Today describes the dangers of experiential mission trips. These are designed to give individuals who have never been exposed to the problems of the world a chance to see it firsthand. It's hard to believe that Americans would not understand how impoverished other parts of the world are. No, it's really not hard to believe. Hence the reason for taking blessed Americans to places not nearly as blessed materially. These once in a lifetime experiences raise awareness and cause individuals to be more sensitive to needs in their homes. The downside is that some groups merely return with a great powerpoint show for their churches, and churches risk becoming God's travel agency, offering great discounts to faraway lands. The article fails to note, however, that most of the Katrina recovery process has been placed on the backs of churches and religious groups taking experiential trips. And they have risen to the challenge.

Relationship trips are ongoing ministry opportunities designed to do more than simply benefit the traveler. These collaborations take churches and groups to parts of the world that over the long haul, prove beneficial for both parties. Not only do you see the individuals in a particular place, but you see their lives (and yours) change. The risk of course is that the host becomes dependent on the visitor. The opportunity, however, goes far beyond the risks.

Third is the lifestyle of missions. This is the ultimate end of the journey, when a person sees her life as one called to a place, to serve a people, wherever the road takes her.

1 comment:

The Moosedog said...

I find it very interesting that there was no mention of the impact of these mission trips on the people they were to help. Mission minded people are not showing up on doorsteps uninvited... There is always a danger of being perceived as an "arrogant American," but these are the trips that usually change that behavior through the reciprocal blessings of service.

There seemed to be a hint of needing more organization and bureaucracy to ensure that everything could be better controllled and no "wildcat missionaries" could "get loose" without proper supervision. The government relief efforts related to Katrina have proven that a huge, organized bureaucracy is ineffective and unable to respond to needs on a personal basis...

Hence, relationships and partnering have been there to fill the need... People who really need help...need help, regardless to how well it is organized.

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