Around ‘The Church’ there has been a lot of negativity toward organizations and individuals participating in short term mission trips. I find it very interesting because 10 years ago there were attacks against Christians for NOT going and just ‘throwing our money’ at the poor. I wanted to enter this conversation because it is very personal to me.
In 2008, I went on a two week mission trip to southern, rural India. Until that point I had never seen poverty. On this trip I saw, smelled, tasted, touched, and encountered a whole new world. The reality of what I experienced touched me in a profound way. I literally came UNDONE!
In 2009, my husband returned with me to India. On this second trip we asked God to break our hearts for what breaks His. He was faithful to answer. We built relationships with some girls at an orphanage where we were privileged to spend three days. It was a wonderful facility! The children were well cared for, and loved, and still they DESIRED to BELONG in a family. We returned home broken. We completely changed the way we thought about our money and where and how we spent it. We sold our cars; we down sized our lifestyle; and we opened our hearts to adoption.
Fast forward 5 years. In addition to our four biological children, we have three adopted children ages 6, 2 and 1. All three of our children who were adopted have special needs: either HIV or Down syndrome. I also began working for Project HOPEFUL where we advocate for “overlooked” orphans all over the world. We work with HIV+ mothers to empower them so that their children will never be orphaned. Our three oldest children have been to Ethiopia and Guatemala on humanitarian mission trips. NOTHING about our lives now look like they did in 2008 before I went on a short term mission trip. That two week trip changed the trajectory of the lives of every person in my family, not to mention our relatives, friends, and community. The work I have been doing with Project HOPEFUL over the last five years impacts thousands of people. God used those mission trips to change our lives, and to impact the lives of those around us. Were those trips perfect? No. Were there things that could have been done differently? Absolutely!
BUT . . . our God is BIG enough to bless short term missions AND those who are being served. God loves those serving AND those being served — EQUALLY! God desires His best for EVERYONE!
We do not need to put an end to mission trips. Jesus spent his whole life as a short term missionary. He never had a home; and he never stayed in one place for very long. He gave HIMSELF, in relationship, to the outcasts. He healed, fed, touched, taught, partied, and loved the outsiders — the overlooked.
It’s clear there are times that helping, when not done with wisdom, can have negative affects. I do believe that empowering indigenous people and long term missionaries is the most effective way of caring for the destitute. I believe that educating and empowering women is the optimal way to radically affect a community and also to alter the orphan crisis in the world. Wisdom and research are imperative prior to a serving trip. AND when mistakes are made, the blood of Jesus is powerful enough to cover each and every mistake and every person involved! This is how we grow in wisdom. We make a mistake, and learn from it. Our plans should be embedded in humility and we should seek out opportunities to learn from those who have gone before.
Instead of casting aspersions on people who are “doing good,” I would love to see “The Church’ become a body of ENCOURAGERS. I believe God would find such joy in us as we use our wisdom to point others in a better direction through relationship, in community, and with a spirit of humble encouragement.
All for ONE,
Lyndsay Boulton is Project Hopeful’s US Liaison to the Village of Hope — Guatemala. She and her husband Bart live in California where they parent seven children.