A meeting earlier this week made me realise that I have done a 180* when it comes to what I think about short term missions trips. (I’ve already said this out loud to a couple of people, so it’s already public knowledge!)
Let me start by saying I hosted STMTs (Short Term Missions Trips) both as a missionary kid and as an adult in my own right. I’ll be honest I wasn’t very fond of them. They were taking a lot of time and energy with few results for those on the field. I often thought their money would be better spent in other ways. STMTs are expensive in more ways than one and lets face it for the most part those people were part of your life for a week maybe two (heck, maybe even a moth or two) and then they were gone.
Then I worked in a missions agency and my feelings were largely confirmed. Most of the missionaries didn’t want to host STMTs and those that did found them time-consuming and taking up lots of time, energy and finances. Most of the debriefs with the missionaries confirmed that even with a good leader and proper training the results were questionable. There were even cases where it was felt the STMT or person took the long term missionaries work backwards due to naiveté.
THEN….I find myself working in a church in midwest America. Guess what? I now think STMTs are an essential part of a church life. Now I know I am reading ‘When Helping Hurts’ and I’m guessing they might say STMTs ‘hurt’ and in many ways they are right, but there are two sides to this coin.
Anyway, my word count tells me I’ve already written 231 words and I haven’t even begun to tell you why STMTs are essential to the North American Church. I think I could write a book about this.
So why do I think STMTs are so important to the average church/person here (as a reminder I now live in Indiana in the US), because until a person has experienced God outside their cultural norms and expectations I am not totally convinced that they will ever ‘get it’. God will continue to remain for them in a very comfortable box.
I believe I might have my next two posts ‘Get It’ and ‘God Sized Boxes’.
PS I should add that I am completely open to being challenged on this topic and look forward to reading more of ‘When helping Hurts’.