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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Questioning the Mission Trip

For some time now I´ve been wrestling with the idea of mission/service trips and how valuable they really are. I think in one way, the are very valuable: They expose us to the reality of life outside our own country (or maybe even just outside our own neighborhood.) They allow us to meet some of the people that we share this world with who see things a little differently than we do. Hopefully such trips change us and cause us to reexamine our own lives, the choices we make, and the way we live out our faith.

But if we are to believe that we are doing the people we visit any big favor by spending hundreds or thousands of dollars to travel to their homes so we can pass out food, mix up concrete, or preach to them, then I think we are mistaken. If we intend to go save those poor people (often times they are much richer than we are... and I´m not talking about adjusted gross income) then we would be better off staying home and just sending that money we would have spent on the trip to help fund their efforts.

I feel like my time here in El Salvador has reinforced that view. While it has been a time of great growth for me, unfortunately I have done very little to really help the people here. Admittedly, my experience has probably been less productive than most, but I am increasingly realizing that if I´m looking to help, I could do a lot more good back home where there are plenty of folks in need (materially and spiritually) who I would be better equipped to serve. Most of the things that we do on the big trips could be done just as well or better by someone who lives in that country. There are exceptions to this of course, such as the doctor who works in an under-developed area. But by and large, we are not providing anything that either the people themselves or someone in a nearby town or city couldn´t provide.

I am not saying that these service and mission trips are bad. I only think that we should be honest with ourselves and clear with the others involved about what exactly our motivations and expectations are. And if they are mostly to help people, then maybe we should look for something a little closer to home.


Anonymous said...

"Brovo" well stated
It kind of irks me when folks from the US have somewhat of a mis-guided view of how superior we as American think we are.

Aaron said...

A well-put argument for subsidiarity.