There seems to be a lot of confusion and miscommunication about short-term trips, especially because we attach the name "mission" to them so carelessly. People seem jaded and in turn have decided it is better not to go at all. They decide it would be a financially wiser use of money to just give to some cause. Seeing how so called "mission trips" have been so poorly used, I can in some ways understand the feeling, but I disagree with the conclusion.
Many great books and articles have come out that point out the error in evangelicals going on these types of trips for poverty tourism or to feel good, only further burdening the communities and harming the name of Jesus in the process. What a sad, good-intentioned waste.
So, why bother risking a new way? Why go?
First of all, I believe a short-term trip is only useful when you are going in partnership with a long-term worker, and you listen to their needs. I think it is best if that worker is from your own body or at least your community.
Also, you must realize that on most trips, you are not needed (not usually) in the strictest, most practical sense, but rather your going is something you need to do for your own growth and understanding of global lostness. And that is OK. You need to feel the overwhelming, worldwide need of someone to share the gospel and make disciples. You think you know, but sometimes you need to stand in a city of 14 million where there are only a few hundred believers and literally the rest are dying and going to hell without ever hearing the good news, to truly feel the weight of the lost world.
(On that note, let's drop the term ‘mission’ from these short-term trips. You probably aren't going to reach anyone for the gospel if you don't know their language or culture. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule. You might encourage the work started and do good things, but let's all try sharing the gospel next door and call these trips something else!)
Another big reason we go visit partners around the globe is simply to visit them! We commission workers to sacrifice so much, like live in moldy apartments away from friends and family, then we tend to forget about them. We go short-term to visit a part of our family. We gladly spend thousands of dollars on plane tickets, not as a waste, but as a joyful gift of money and time to these precious workers.
Do you have any idea how they might feel some days? I had a small window into their world a month after I got married, as I moved to a small, dirty village in the highlands of Peru for three months to help my husband do work on his research for his thesis. It was freezing, I barely knew any Spanish, we were constantly sick, had no hot water and we were pretty lonely! We worked long days and our only communication was a pay phone and a slow Internet cafe (this was before most people had smart phones). At night I dreamed about Publix, a warm bed, and my friends and family, all the time knowing I would go home in three months! Imagine how many of our partners must feel year after year not seeing any familiar faces. We go to support and encourage them, so they can remain faithful to the task.
When you go visit long term workers you bring back their vision and you hopefully will be inspired to give generously and pray vigorously for the spread of the gospel.
Finally, we go so we can have our ears attuned to our own call. “Where do you want me, Lord? Where do you want me to make disciples?” If we leave it to the few, then millions will go on living and dying without ever hearing the good news. All of us have a role to play in God's global story. What is your part? Who do you need to go visit and encourage? It might be good to sacrifice a lot to go see what God is doing around the world through members of your local body!
Written By: Jessica Fitzgerald