As I noted, there is ample evidence that short term mission trips can be problematic. Yet, year after year, I continue to organize, train and lead groups into the northeastern region of Brazil.
Even with the problems and potential dangers (which I’ll discuss later) of such trips, I’ve found that they can have, or add, substantial value to the work in the host country. Three spring immediately to mind.
First, there is what I’ll call “Enlightenment.” Simply put, the nationals see that someone cares enough about them that they would travel to their country, live in their circumstances and go out of their way to demonstrate love. While this may not be viable in a metropolitan area, in the rural setting of Brazil it is invaluable.
The love poured out on the children in the little village of Ubaúna over the last five years has resulted in doors being flung wide open for the advancement of the Kingdom. The visiting Americans are heralded as “gentle giants” who brighten an otherwise dismal existence. Dirty, lice-ridden, scab-covered little kids climb all over these prim and proper “gringos” who, though initially hesitant to embrace such a child, scoop these little munchkins up into their arms and become their inseparable companions for days on end.
I recently was talking to a young lady in Ubaúna, now 18 years old, who had her first experience with an American “short termer” five years ago. She has not seen her American counterpart since, but spoke so fondly of the experience that you would have thought it had occurred yesterday. It marked her and changed her perspective she had of herself. Because a “foreigner” proved to her that she had value by loving on her, this young lady’s life had been forever changed.
I could repeat this same story time after time. The enlightenment that American Christians can bring in a short period of time in invaluable.
Coming up: Encouragement and Advertising…