I have a love-hate relationship with short-term missions. My wife’s family was converted through a campaign which utilized college students on a short trip. I came to know Argentina and missions on a similar trip. I’ve seen groups effectively reach out in limited efforts.
I’ve also seen people go to other countries to do what they never do at home. I’ve seen people spend thousands to deliver hundreds of dollars of relief. I’ve heard nationals talk about “mission” groups that insisted working in the areas that would give them the best photo ops. (“They want to ride canoes and wear feathers on their heads”)
Apparently I’m not the only one with mixed feelings. On the site “Jamie the very worst missionary,” the author stirred up quite a lot of comments by sharing her feelings. She started with a column called “Are we calling this a win-win?” which addressed so-called poverty tourism. She eventually had to shut of comments on that post because of the heat generated.
Later she looked at the four principal defenses given for short term missions and began analyzing those defenses. She’s addressed the first one (Sorry poor people, it’s not about you), the second one (Mmm… no, it’s not “all good”) and the third (Using your poor kid to teach my rich kid a lesson).
It’s interesting stuff. I hope you’ll take the time to read it. I may spend some time analyzing her arguments and others on this issue. Does Jamie have any valid points? Should we just accept that good is being done and leave it at that? Or is it time we took a hard look at short-term missions?