Great comment from a “real-life” Missionary

November 25, 2008 — 2 Comments

My friend Kirk was a missionary and he just left an insightful comment to my latest post.  I think it’s so good–and could be helpful to any person who plans to go on a short-term mission trip–that I’m going to copy it here.  It would be a shame for it to go unread, simply because it’s hidden in the comments.

Read this and let me know your thoughts:


As an MK (Missionary Kid, for you lurkers), I have seen both sides of the short-term mission trips. If a group can truly fill a need, and has the expertise or ability to do a job that can’t be done by the missionaries in the field (either due to lack of abilities, funds, materials, labor, or time), then the project is seldom ever unnecessary or unwanted.

However, there are groups that mean well, but want to tell the missionaries what their church will do for them, and how it will be done, even if it isn’t needed, and often is a burden to the completion of the goals of the mission. Other groups are there mainly to play tourist, and are often more interested in filling their own need to feel important or look good to their church members back home. They are usually the ones that get in the way and hinder the work in the field.

The best groups are ones that respond to the needs specifically listed by the mission group – almost every mission will be able to provide a long list of things that really NEED to be done (not all of them are overseas). And each mission trip group needs to be able to interface with the missionaries on the ground that know and understand the culture, politics, and needs in their location. And they need to accept the leadership that the missionaries are also following in order to be relevant to the people they are serving.

Not every mission trip is necessary or wanted by those that it is meant to benefit, but most can be, with the right motive. God may lead a church to do something, but as with every good missionary (and yes, there are bad ones too, unfortunately), a person with a servant’s heart (and often a strong back) is the most essential quality required to be of true value.

For any group that is looking to travel overseas on a short-term mission trip, be sure that you not only have the funds to go, but the ability to serve the needs that are out there, instead of pushing your own agendas on to the missionaries. And finally, be flexible enough to change your “mission” if the needs change after you arrive – the technical needs you go out to fill are usually not nearly as important as the spiritual or psychological lift you can give to the missionaries or the people they serve!

I love the work you guys will be doing… it sounds necessary, relevant, and most of all, a blessing to those receiving the gift of sight. God bless you all on the trip… wish I could go too!


2 responses to Great comment from a “real-life” Missionary


    As a family member of many missionaries, I agree with you completely. That was very well said and very true. It is so important to evaluate whether you are going to be served (self-served) or serve as needed.


    Tony Sheng [] has become my source for all things relating to youth missions trips. His approach to focus, prep, training, leading, purpose, and impact is well thought out and flat out amazing. Based partly on what I’ve learned from him and what I’ve learned on trips/leading trips, there are three rules I think are key to any missions trip.

    #1 – Partner with who’s there. Short term teams should partner with longer term missionaries to accomplish the missionaries goals. Longer term teams should partner with indigenous people to accomplish the peoples goals. Just as the short term team can’t determine the goals of their trip, a long term missionary can not simply come in a take their western religion and impose it on the culture. Christ is cross cultural, but our religion must be translated to the local context.

    #2 – Evaluate the long term impact. How will what you are doing impact the culture 1000 years after you are gone? Will it be a net positive, a net negative, or will it matter at all?

    #3 – You have to have Faith and you have to be Flexible. You have to have faith that God will get you there, keep you safe, and get you home. And you have to be flexible enough to know that His plans are more important than your plans. Things change and you have to bend.

    Based on these three rules, I think short term missionaries can still be valuable, but I think most of them probably are not. We do our own thing with our own goals, we think only about this year or maybe the next 10 or 20 years, and we are American in our planning that we get bent out of shape when God shows up with better plans.

    Of course, I think we need to apply these three rules to a lot of churches here in the states as well, but that’s a-whole-nother issue for another topic.

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