The term "missions trip" sparks alot of different thoughts, emotions and viewpoints. When I tell people that I lead short term missions trips, I get responses from people everywhere from "Thats such a good thing to do" "I bet that is very fulfilling" "Why do you have to go to another country to serve?" "Isn't it better to just donate that money than spend it on traveling there?" "I heard that missions trips do more harm than good". As someone who has been on many missions trips and works for a missions organization, I have heard and contemplated all of these phrases.
I have heard stories of missions groups going to Haiti and building huge compounds and homes in a place that has no access to water. Three years later, a beautiful, million dollar building stands vacant, because if anyone lived there they would have to walk a huge amount of miles to get water. But the team has photos of them working hard in Haiti, and the donors have no idea that there money was completely wasted, and the same amount of people still live without shelter in Haiti.
I have heard of groups going to countries where they are unwelcomed, bringing food in a way that caused an uproar causing people to riot and kill one another.
Of course we also encounter the common problem surrounding any outreach or free program, does this enable and cause the people to become dependent?
To all of these points, the answer is yes ,with short term missions can come many problems if you aren't careful. The best service trips and programs are done in communication and partnership with a ministry that already exists through the locals in the town or village you are going. At Caring Hearts, we do everything through the local church, partnering with our Mexican brothers and sisters, serving along side them. When we go to build a home for one of the sick families in the Shut In ministry, we go with Marcelo and the older boys from the Oasis Boys' home to work with them. We go to the church and prisons simply to encourage and partner with the pastors and ministries that already exist. We go into the villages and tell the people that they are loved and seen by God and give them food. But during those times they are introduced to Adalberto and the other church members who will be able to continue to visit them once we leave.
As missionaries, we come bringing the funds to provide alot of food and resources. We also come bringing refreshment and fresh excitement. We give special opportunities for ministry, a free VBS, an extra worship service. But at the same time, we travel to visit our brothers and sisters, in the same way you spend time and money to visit your struggling sister with a new baby. You could mail that sister a check to hire help and buy diapers, but your loving presence makes all the difference. This is why traveling on short term missions is important.
On the other hand, short term missions are just as important for the missionaries. I see missions as a pipeline for people to understand their true purpose. To get away from all the busyness and all of the stress and noise of everyday life, to give up all the things we do each day for ourselves, to pay our own bills, to get our own bodies in shape, to make sure our houses and cars are clean and presentable, and instead concentrate solely on meeting needs and sharing hope with others. This is where we find out who God created us to be and the gifts he has given us. We experience love for others and understand that THAT is how our God also sees us. As we pray for God to do miracles, and we are able to provide answers to the prayers of the poor and sick, we are reminded that God wants to answer our own prayers and meet our own needs as well.
To me, this is why missions are important. It is important for both the visitor and one being visited. When done from a humbled place of wanting to share and be shared with, from a place of visiting brothers and sisters in a foreign nation and letting them tell you their needs, and from a place of compassion and willingness to learn, missions trips are powerful for all involved. We serve those in front of us as if they were God himself standing in front of us, and in return, we are blessed by them.
Missionary Ambassador for Caring Hearts Ministry
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’