by Bucky Rogers
Founder and Executive Director of Benjamin House Ministries
Living in a third-world country for 3 years now and having gone on about 20 mission trips in my life, I’ve learned some valuable lessons….mostly from making mistakes. One of them is that unless mission trips are intentionally done right they do much more harm than good, and in more ways than one.
So, here are my four reasons you should never go on a mission trip again. NEVER go on a mission trip again if:
NEVER go on a mission trip again if:
1. You think you’re ready to change someone’s life. This may seem odd, but we see it soooooooo often. This mindset is called "a Savior complex" and I’ve seen so many teams soaked in it. Thankfully, we have been blessed with pretty strong teams as Benjamin House Ministries, but I also get to interact with a lot of mission teams from other areas and with other organizations and see them on the Kampala Expatriates page on Facebook. Honestly, it can be nauseating. Blog posts are written by a mission team member chronicling how they were able to single handedly bring a smile to an utterly hopeless child. Or listing how many people “they’ve” saved. Even posting posed pictures to make the situation look more dire than it really is. You’re not here to save anyone, change anyone. It's actually very demeaning to go into another culture with that kind of mindset. A family of 6 living in a mud hut may seem desperate to many in western culture, but it is very normal and comfortable for many here. Instead of coming in to change people, be willing to come to learn, to grow, introduce people to the ONE who does change people, and be prepared for it to change you.
2. You’re not willing to be uncomfortable. Everything about a mission trip is uncomfortable for a western mindset. Be willing to eat and drink whatever is offered to you. Know that your tummy is gonna be upset at some point and you’ll have stains from mud (or other substances) on your clothes more often than not. Be willing to pick up a child who smells awful without making a disgusted or disgruntled face. Walk through places and experience things that are a reality for millions without being judgmental or turning your nose. Instead of getting grossed out by the fact that Ugandans love Nsenene (fried grasshoppers), politely say, "No thank you," or try one rather than dismissing their preferred tastes. People will stare, people might mock, people may laugh, they could even reject you or Jesus, but you have to be ready for and ok with that. What is a little discomfort in comparison with eternity?
3. You want to post about your trip hour-by-hour to draw attention to yourself and get praise from people back home. Although I don’t know whether people knowingly do this, it does happen. And when people start praising you for the good work you’re doing, it can get easy to begin to believe them. Humility sometimes means you do good things because they need to be done, without anyone else this side of heaven ever knowing you did them. Does that mean you shouldn’t update people back home about progress? Of course not. But take care to always frame it in terms of what God is teaching you and allowing you to experience.
Humility sometimes means you do good things
because they need to be done,
without anyone else this side of heaven ever
knowing you did them.
4. You’re expecting everyone else to sacrifice in order to send you with no sacrifice of your own. Fundraisers are great. They allow people who may not be able to go on mission to participate with you. Missions offerings that cover part of a trip cost are great. They allow the body to be the body. Friends and family standing with you as you go is great. It allows a piece of them to go with you. But please be willing to also make a great sacrifice in order to go on mission. It needs to cost you something. Whether that’s your Friday morning Starbucks all year long, or your vacation, or having to drive that beater car another 6 months before you look for a replacement. Sacrifice something.
If you’re willing to have your life changed, to be uncomfortable at times and be okay with it, to allow all praise to go to the ONE who deserves it all, and to personally make a sacrifice, you’re ready to come on mission. And oh what a glorious mission it is. There is nothing better than being with the Lord and seeing Him work miraculous things in people’s lives, even your own. You’ll never be the same. And that’s a pretty great thing.
Bucky Rogers, Benjamin House staff, and short-term missionaries