Although I have been critical of the modern idea called short term mission trips, I would like to offer some better alternatives that accomplish the same purpose. I am not saying that it is wrong for you take a short trip to do mission work, I am saying it is wrong for you to take a vacation and call it a mission trip. So why not be honest about it? “We are taking a vacation and while we are there we’re going to spend a day or two helping a missionary with his work.” This is better than asking other Christians to pay for your vacation, but it means you’ll have to pay your own way. If this is something that would be of interest to you, let me know. I know of men and churches in almost every state that might need a hand.
Another alternative is to acquaint yourself with some individual missionaries. Get to know them on a personal level and keep up to date with them thru social media, email, and letters. By doing this you will be informed of their needs and accomplishments. This will allow you to pray more specifically for them and will make you aware of how you can be of help to them. Many times these ministries don’t need a team from another part of the world to come and help them. They need someone who can proof read literature before printing, do graphic designs or letter heads, stuff envelopes, gather books and ship them, research new demographics and resources. All of this can be done from your living room or over the internet.
Let us not forget the most important need, money. No one likes to talk about it and most missionaries hate to ask for it. But they can’t live on love and coconuts. I have never met an honest missionary that was well funded for the work he was called to to do. Most of these men make great sacrifices to to go to the places God has called them. So rather than spending the equivalent of a month of their household income on your 5 day trip, send them the cost of the trip. O, I know it ain’t as fun to give away money as it is to go on an adventure. But, is it about your adventure or missions? Refer to paragraph one. If that is your motive call it a vacation and be honest about it.
There are occasions when a group is needed for a short time to accomplish a certain task, usually for construction. These trips are needed but they are not the norm and carpenters would be high on the list of those who need to go.
To sum up this issue let me say there is more to missions than fun trips in the summer. Most mission work is tiring and often boring. It’s not glamorous or fun. Most of a missionary’s supporting needs can be met by people who work a regular job and never leave their home town. You just have to take an interest mission. So I encourage you to get involved with a missionary and help him wherever you can.
Last week I wrote about modern mission trips and I really didn’t have the space to cover all that I felt needed to be said on this topic. So want to touch on a few of the other issues with this relatively modern idea of missions.
First off let us think of who’s going on these trips. Most churches plan mission trips for the youth group. We get flyers in the mail all the time advertising preplanned mission trips for our church’s youth group. This may shock you but I am not a fan of sending teenagers to do mission work. I know a thing or two about youth group mission trips because I took a couple trips to Mexico in my youth. I regularly see youth during the summer eating at McDonald’s or Wendy’s on their way to a “mission field.” They are raucous, loud and very inconsiderate of everyone in the restaurant. Boyfriend and girlfriend are all snuggled up together eating as the youth leader’s little boy is throwing a temper tantrum wanting the prize from his happy meal while all the rest run wild. Does this look like the face of Christianity? Should churches sacrificially give to send these kids out with our message? Are teenagers the best heralds of the gospel? Maybe I’m too judgmental?
In Act 15:36-41 Paul and Barnabas split up over taking John Mark on a second mission trip because he went home early on the last trip. This should give us some idea of the seriousness of who goes on a mission trip. Couple this with the length of the modern mission trip only being 5-9 days. How much impact can one truly have in a week? Oh and I forgot to mention part of that “week of missions” will be spent sight seeing with a full day at Six Flags. Can you imagine any missionary from past generations wanting this kind of help? What church of yesteryear would send people on a vacation/mission trip? None of them would. But this is the standard operating procedure of churches in our day.
Now the argument against my position is that these trips are good for the kids and they really grow while away from the church and home. You know? Being away from home with other kids makes them more mature when they come back. Bologna! The Bible tells us the youth are to grow and learn by being in the home and church. How can taking them away from those God given institutions be to their benefit? To be honest, it only makes a boring church more fun to go on trips with your friends once or twice a year. I never cared for Scouts but I loved going to Camp Orr every year so I stayed in just for that. Many young people are only interested in church for the fun activities. When they out grow the fun, they out grow the church. Missions are not intended to be fun for kids, they are for the spreading of the gospel! Pray that churches would take missions seriously. ~HWS
I normally write this little article on Thursday of each week. During the week an issue will come up and I use this space to shed a little light on the topic. This week I was rolling some issues around and couldn’t decide on just one so I put it off till Sunday morning. My mind was settled when I checked the mail this morning. I was invited to go on a mission trip to a country half way around the world!
Yeah, and it will only cost me $3000 plus shots, a passport and visas. I would be joining a team from Arkansas and working with a team from that country to: run a medical clinic, train church leaders, lead in singing/worship and prayer walk. Well, I’m no doctor and I’m a terrible nurse so that’s out. I can’t sing or play an instrument and they all speak a different language anyway so that’s out. Prayer walking… Now that needs it’s own paragraph.
What in the world is that? Where do we find it in Scripture? The walls of Jericho? I’m not an expert on all things Bible but I had never heard of this until about ten years ago and now every mission trip is doing it. I observed it a few times at church camp, a group of people walking to all the dorms stopping and praying at each one before marching around the tabernacle in prayer. Isn’t this the exact same thing the Pharisees did on the street corners? “Oh no, we pray quietly as we walk, they prayed out loud.” Then why don’t you pray in private at home and send your $3000 to a needy missionary. If our prayers are truly aimed at heaven, then they will have no trouble reaching any part of the globe. This is just a modern idea to make everyone “qualified” for missions. I also firmly believe it has it’s roots in Pentecostalism and the need to touch and rebuke things in person.
It’s true, I could give some advice to church leaders over there. Truth is I already do, via the world wide web. I regularly correspond with missionaries discussing any number of issues they have. Our church has sent books and care packets to a number of native pastors for training and encouragement. While many have expressed a desire to see me face to face, if given the option, $3000 dollars would be of better use to them than seeing my ugly mug.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti mission trips. But mission trips are for missionaries. Missionaries don’t travel the world and risk their lives to play music, sing or prayer walk. They go to preach the gospel and aid the people. Paul would never use this kind of money to spend 4-5 days with someone. But we will, because we spend it on vacations every year. And that’s what it is, a religious vacation. I’m not judging all who go on these trips, but I am condemning the whole “mission trip” system. Christians have lost sight of real missions and we need to get it back.
If you live or work on the north side of Van Buren you can’t help but notice a guy standing at the intersection of I 40 and Hwy 59 holding a cardboard sign asking for help. This used to be an occasional sighting but for the past two or three weeks it has been a regular occurrence morning and evening. I’ve tried to take a good long look at them every time I go by. I have yet to see the same guy twice but I’ve seen the same car 3 times.
I saw a big suv parked across hwy 59, the beggar ran up to the car and gave the guy inside a big wad of cash. The suv drove off to Oklahoma and he went back to the corner with his sign. Later that week I saw the same car parked by the bulk ice machine right around the corner from where the guy was holding the sign. Then to top if off, Wednesday there was a guy sitting on the corner in a wheelchair with crutches and a sign asking for money. I thought to myself, how did he get to the I 40 exit ramp in that wheelchair? Later, as I was leaving Mcdonalds, I saw him pushing the wheelchair across the gravel parking lot up hill by the ice machine, fold up the chair and get in the same suv and leave. Was he miraculously healed?
No, he wasn’t healed, he’s a fake. They are all fake and they are part of a team that are scamming people by playing on our emotions. They have a sad story on their sign and many people feel sorry for them and want to help them. Friday evening there was a young couple in their early 20′s holding a baby and a cardboard sign asking for gas money in front of the gas station. Now ask yourself this, what mom would hold her baby on the side of hwy 59 where everyone could see it in January? What husband and father would ask his wife and newborn to come stand out here by the highway with him while he panhandles? If you or I were in that predicament, our wife and baby would be in the car or in the station. But then again we are honest people who don’t make a living cheating others out of their hard earned money with a fake story to prey on their emotions.
Why does this bother me? #1 Truly needy people can’t get help because of all these phonies. #2 I hate to see honest people cheated. #3 I have a low tolerance for liars. #4 The longer they make a living scamming people, the longer it will be before they learn to make an honest living. #5 People feel good about helping the poor but all they’ve really done is buy cigarettes and a bottle for a lying con man.
In a country with “now hiring” signs in the windows of businesses and financial assistance available to anyone who can’t work, who still has to stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign? Here’s a better question, who in their right mind gives money to these crooks? Be smart with your money, don’t fund a con artist.
This past week while in my office I answered 5-6 phone calls form random people wanting to know if our church helped with groceries, paid electric bills, or just gave money to people in need. Four of theses calls began with a long stories about all their problems and why they needed money from Lee Creek. I told them that we didn’t have the finances to give money out to everyone who called asking for help. Then I suggested that they check with the local government agencies that have funds to help folks in their situation. The response was the same every single time “We’ve already called them and they can’t help us anymore so we are calling around to different churches.”
That is the problem I want to talk about: “They can’t help us anymore.” Webster says the noun “help” means: the action of helping someone to do something; assistance. The problem is too many people are relying on short term help to overcome a long term problem. Quite simply, there’s more going out than coming in. When their “assistance” drys up they have no plan to overcome it. The easiest solution is to call on someone else to replace the assistance they lost. That’s where the church comes in. The government will no longer pay my bills, so lets see if the churches will. The local food bank cut back on our free groceries so let find a church to get free groceries. The electric company will no longer wait to be paid so lets ask a church for the money to pay this bill. Now let us assume the church pays the bill, gives the groceries, and hands out money to those that ask, where do they get the money for next month’s groceries and bills? None of these people lost jobs, they only lost assistance. Without someone else’s help they can’t make it.
How long can the church pay someone else’s bills? How long can the church buy groceries for others? I’ll answer these questions, until the church runs out of money. That is exactly what is happening, churches are running out of money. Two of these people told me that the churches that used to help them don’t have the funds anymore. They already receive all the government help they can get and now they don’t know where else to look.
I know where to look, its in the classifieds under the heading, Help Wanted. This is not the hand out section, its the hands on section. Instead of looking for a new church to help pay your bills, find a job and pay your own. I did try to tactfully suggest they look for employment. The ones who didn’t hang up on me gave a hundred reasons why they couldn’t work. Gov Scott Walker of WI summed up my feelings this week when he said “Public assistance should be a trampoline, not a hammock.” If you have no plans to work for more, learn to live on what you have.