Missions vs. Missional Living – A Short-term Trip with Eternal Ramifications
This past February, I had the opportunity to lead Arrowhead Bible College students on a mission trip to the Philippines. This trip was actually a combination of two classes, Missions and Missional Living. Our classroom was the world and we engaged the classroom with the head, heart and hands.
We had to deal with the question, “Is it really practical to fly 8,000 miles to paint a school?” Is the money spent on travel a good expense when just sending money might have a far greater financial impact than our feet on the ground?
We also had to deal with real statistics that tell us that short-term trips rarely impact the people that participate in them over the long term. Most mission trip participants don’t become long-term supporters of missions. Most experience a short-term emotional high (or guilt) and then return to life as normal.
So, on this trip, we talked a lot about the dangers of short-term missions. The first danger is even thinking that missions is ever really short-term. Following Jesus should always be done “on our feet” and in the world. It’s also more about relationships than projects. We didn’t fly 8,000 miles to paint a building. We flew 8,000 miles to spend time with people while sharing God’s grace and goodness.
Arrowhead students painted a school, but when lunchtime came, they put their paintbrushes down and played tag with kids. Two Arrowhead students (Janine and Laura) taught in a classroom that didn’t have a teacher. One Arrowhead student with a science background (Rebbecah) pulled out a microscope that had been purchased but never used and taught the teachers how to use it. There were enough kids with lice in their hair to provide plenty of active specimens.
Several of the Arrowhead students ran themselves into exhaustion, chasing and loving on kids. All of us prayed more deeply because we got to know real people, real friends. At the same time, we witnessed real economic poverty and reflected on our own poverty. We spent time with the disabled, the hungry, the spiritually lost, and those rich in love and happiness despite difficult circumstances.
And we were blessed!
As I read through the reflection papers written by the Arrowhead students, I found myself getting emotional and thinking more intentionally about how to live life on-mission, all the time. There is such a thing as short-term experiences, but there is no such thing as short-term missions.
Montana On A Mission