Leap Frog & Launching Pads
There are a lot of short-term mission trip critics in the world. I’m one of them, probably. Part of my criticism of short-term mission trips as we know them to be in the Western culture actually stems from my first short-term trip to Juarez, Mexico:
I think I came back more changed, more impacted, more transformed than any one kid we loved and served over our week at the home.
We’re going down there to change…impact…transform them, right?
And so the folly begins…
I read a good article from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary the other day. (She gave herself that name, not me.) Taking a snippet from her post, she says this:
This is how Jesus sent “short-term teams” in Luke, chapter 10:
“After this the Lord appointed 72 others. He sent them out two by two ahead of him. They went to every town and place where he was about to go.
He told them, “The harvest is huge, but the workers are few. So ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field.
Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals. And don’t greet anyone on the road.
When you enter a house, first say, ‘May this house be blessed with peace.’ If someone there loves peace, your blessing of peace will rest on him. If not, it will return to you. Stay in that house. Eat and drink anything they give you. Workers are worthy of their pay. Do not move around from house to house.
When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set down in front of you. Heal the sick people who are there. Tell them, ‘God’s kingdom is near you.
… The 72 returned with joy. They said, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we speak in your name.”
Soooo…. basically, we do it, like, exactly opposite to the way Jesus did.
Where Jesus appointed, we take volunteers.
Where Jesus sent pairs, we send herds.
Where Jesus admonished for danger and quiet humility along the road, we opt for vacation destinations and loud self-congratulations.
Where Jesus asks to be bringers of peace, we often bring chaos.
Where Jesus designed an opportunity for a disciple to lean into a new family, learn a new culture, and serve under the head of a household (who best knows his own need), we march in with a plan and the resources to git’er’done – completely missing out on the gift of being “a worker worth his wages”.
What if the original picture of “short-term teams” was meant to show us this valuable step in the process of discipleship, where we can learn dependence on God, love for others, and how to serve well?…..
Perhaps the first step to creating healthy short-term missions can be found in stripping them down to their most basic form, creating them to look more like part of the discipleship process. What if we unashamedly refocused the dynamics of a “mission” trip onto the one being sent, and removed pseudo-humanitarian efforts (which are often more harm than good) altogether?
In July, and for the first time ever, we might actually constitute what Jamie would call a “herd.” We’ve got twenty people going! We probably will have some matching t-shirts, because matching t-shirts are awesome, and…well…any time you add 20 more people to a home of 60+ kids….what was chaos will inevitably become Chaos.
And so every indication is we’re like the rest. We’re adding to the multi-billion dollar industry. We’re taking a glorified vacation (ok, maybe not true here…don’t know if Juarez makes anybody’s Top 10 Vacation Destinations), patting ourselves on the back for a “job well done” and then going back to mainstream American life of chaos³.
So it’s got me thinking. It’s got us at Ace in the City thinking, maybe we can do things better. We should always be seeking to do things better….more like Christ….
I do believe that our weeks spent at the Emmanuel Children’s Home in Juarez are good, and a time well-spent.
I do believe that real relationships can develop over the course of a week. (A few of my closest friends are there! )
I do believe that the kids and the staff can be mutually encouraged. (And do benefit from a slight relief of responsibilities. At least their shoulders get a break….)
I do believe that a week of piggy-back rides, smiles, hugs can make a lasting impact. (See: http://acehoops.posterous.com/incredible)
I do believe in what we do, and in this investment of time and energy.
However, and this is where I came back full circle with many of the criticisms of short-term mission trips—I do think we can all place a heavier emphasis on “the one being sent.”
My prayer for trip-goers is that this trip will be a launching pad for future, deeper, more committed, Kingdom work—a stepping stone to more radical love, selfless giving, and relentless passion and energy. (And we’ll be intentional about training and preparing for this trip with this goal in mind.)
As the Spirit leads, pray for them as well!
Jesus gave a good example to follow. Read Matthew 4. Prior to Jesus beginning His ministry, what does He do? He intentionally goes into the wilderness. He intentionally puts Himself into a situation where He’d be tested.
The wilderness was a launching pad for Jesus.
But His ministry began in the wilderness. It began with the hunger, the pain, the trials. Being stretched and challenged and under fire. It began with a test. It began with emptying Himself, staying committed to the will of His Father, no matter what.
My prayer for the team of 20 in July is that our trip may be part of their wilderness experience. What’s your wilderness experience? The wilderness can take a thousand faces, but my encouragement to all of us, with Jesus as our example, is to seek that wilderness experience! Seek the hunger, the pain, the trials. Seek being stretched and challenged and under fire. Seek emptying ourselves.
For we should Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever we face trials of many kinds, because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance.
Our goal should be to come out like Jesus did, proven and tested.
Into the wilderness we go.
Keep pressing on…