Are Short-term Mission trips a waste?

Lately I've seen a bit of hubbub discussing the value of short-term mission trips.  Seeing as Intercultural Ministries was my major in college, I feel qualified to speak on this subject (as well as many exposures to missionary work - long-term, short-term and everything in between).

Talk to lifetime missionaries and they will give you mixed reviews.  Yes, they can be a waste.  If they're done sloppily and the people travelling from the U.S. think they're on some kind of glorified vacation.  Yes, that would be taxing on the hosts to put up with them.  That would be draining on the resources being spent of travel and lodging.  So, if you want to stop there and answer the question simplistically - then, yes.  Fine.  End of discussion.  Right?


Sorry, we don't get to stop there.

Let's look at it at a purely financial standpoint - you know, the bottom-line.  Ooh.  This is where it gets good.  Great, preach it Sarah, and I won't have to give one more penny to short-termers who fund-raise for their pet project.

I hate to disappoint you, but financially, I really believe the $3,000 summer mission trip IS a good investment that will pay dividends far beyond what we see initially.

Let's say 12 year-old Caleb goes on a summer trip to, say, the Philippines.  Let's say it costs around $3000 for the trip, give or take a few hundred.  (It really costs less).

Let's say 20 people give towards his trip.  Let's say each of those 20 takes an interest in what is going on in the Philippines.  Let's say they naturally become more curious and involved, prayer-wise with the needs in South Asia.  And let's say they are so blessed by hearing of the fruit of this child's gift of time, encouragement, service and involvement to the Filipino's that they joyfully increase their giving to mission work overall.  I'd say that's an initial dividend.  Money in the Kingdom Bank.

Let's say said 12 year-old grows up to NOT become a missionary.  Let's say he works in a profitable business of some sort.  And he remembers his experience and exposure to the poverty and need of those in another country.  Let's say this memory and life-altering experience ends up causing him to increase his giving towards mission work in general or/and towards the same location he went to before.  The increase in his eventual generosity can be traced back to the initial investment of $3,000.  Chances are, his lifetime giving will exceed that $3,000 - so I'd say the investment is a good one.

Now, let's say he tells his classmates and friends about his time in the Philippines.  Let's suppose others grow in their interest to invest in God's kingdom - as they see the joyful fruit of one child's labours and experience.  These dividends cannot be counted.

So, just give up this stuff about short-term missions being a waste and couldn't the money be better used elsewhere!  In some cases, yes, it could.  But even then, don't you think God can redeem the sloppy short-term trip too?  Don't you think He could and would use it somehow to further His kingdom?  Yes, let's be responsible about it.  But let's not shrink from going and seeing, and knowing and giving and rejoicing and uniting in fellowship with others around the globe.  Let's not think these trips are a waste.  Because they're not.

And that's all I have to say about that.  For now.


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