Mission trips have always been an enigma. We see a lot of good humanitarian things done, and some sharing of the good news. But they have also created a lot of questions and doubts. We wonder how much we're actually helping the communities we're going to work in. We wonder if we're possibly even more of a burden upon them than we are a help to them. I know some of the trips I've been on have caused me to see areas where we've used up more resources than we've probably given. It's always been apparent to me that the people who go and participate in the service and mission work seem to get a lot out of it. So I've been wondering who benefits the most...hence, a reader poll was born.
Last week I asked: Who do you think benefits the most from church or youth group mission trips? Of course we have to understand that our perspectives on this are going to be highly influenced by our experiences, but of the answers available only 3 were chosen. The high majority of you said that both the community and the participants benefit, but that the participants benefit more (64%). A minority of you agreed that both the community and participants benefit, but that the community benefits more (28%). And there was one loner out there who said that only the participants benefit.
My take on this is that most of us who have participated in church or youth group mission trips have seen that both the participants and the community benefit. At the same time most agree that the participants recieve the greater benefit.
Does this mean we stop doing mission trips because we're helping ourselves more than others? No, but it does mean we need to think a bit about our motives when we're planning our experiences and when we're evaluating the effectiveness of these trips. Perhaps we should try to find ways to be a bigger benefit to the communities we're serving and try to be less of a burden upon them. And perhaps it also means we go into the experience trying to be more perceptive to the ways we ourselves are experiencing God in the process.