I’m going on a short-term mission trip to Costa Rica. That fact still surprises me, given my ambivalent feelings toward such trips. There’s a lot to like about this trip. On a personal level, I’m getting to go with my wife and kids. This is the first time that we’ll do something like this together.
On an organizational level, I like the way the trip is set up. There’s a service aspect and an evangelistic aspect. Though not set up this way intentionally, almost all of those going speak Spanish, which will allow us to do some things other groups may not. The bulk of the group is made up by family units, parents traveling with their adolescent (and up) children. Three couples on our time have worked as long-term missionaries in the past. And our activities are being planned by the local church, rather than us imposing a plan on them.
Still, I can see how easy it is to get caught up in “doing good” and not think about some of the effects your actions might have. Dan Bouchelle wrote an excellent article about this yesterday. It’s easy to overwhelm the local church with an infusion of “foreign things,” be that money, supplies, or even the ways of carrying out church activities.
I’ve seen a lot of good done by individuals on short-term trips. I’ve seen a lot of waste. I’ve even seen some harm done. I don’t have all the answers as to what’s right and what’s wrong.
I do know that if we ever allow short-term missions to replace long-term missions, the end result will be a weakening of the church, both here and abroad.
On that happy note, I need to go pack for Costa Rica!