Does a short-term visit do more harm than good?
You might think that this is an odd question! But in this age when ease of travel has made so much possible, we do need to ask ourselves the hard questions about the appropriateness of overseas short-term trips. Are we a real help or a hindrance? Do we realise that we will probably learn far more than we will give? Do our one way trips from “here to there” just perpetuate the mistaken idea that mission is something that is done to people by better educated and better off Westerners? Are we listening to the voices on the receiving end of our mission efforts, no matter how uncomfortable that is?
The desire to make a worthwhile and lasting difference within the local community is usually high among the priorities of those going on short-term mission trips. But if we are not careful this can lead us to unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve, and lead to us seeing mission just as an activity or an event. Short-term mission cannot replace the involvement of those who share their lives in long-term committed relationships, but it can be of immense value if done hand-in-hand with, and contributing to, a longer-term vision. Short-termers often comment that they gain more from their experiences than they’ve been able to give.
Keep your focus on God and His purposes for the trip and on what He is doing, rather than on how you might be benefitting personally or being changed. Whatever you do, do it with a heart to honour God and serve others, taking on board the advice given to you by your chosen mission agency. And understand that how you do a short-term mission trip may, in fact, matter more than what you do - things no-one normally tells you about going on short-term mission trips is a great little article to read on this subject.