Does a short-term visit do more harm than good?
In this age when ease of travel has made so much possible, we need to ask ourselves the hard questions about the appropriateness of short-term trips overseas. There are serious issues involved when relatively rich and inexperienced people want to ‘make a difference’ in situations that are usually far more complex and nuanced than they realise. Equally, this should not stop us from doing so – it should just push us to do things better.1
Do we realise that we will probably learn far more than we will give? What about our environmental concerns?
Our desire to make a difference can lead us to unrealistic expectations of what we can achieve and cause us to see the mission just as an activity or an event. Short-term involvement still is a great way to see what God is doing around the world, to listen and to learn, and perhaps even test a call to long-term service overseas.
Keep your focus on God and His purposes for the trip and on what He is doing, rather than on how you might be benefitting personally or being changed. Whatever you do, do it with a heart to honour God and serve others, taking on board the advice that was given to you by your church and your chosen mission agency. If environmental concerns are top of your list, then choose a mission agency that shares these concerns and is doing something about it.
And finally, understand that how you do a short-term mission trip may, in fact, matter more than what you do - things no one normally tells you about going on short-term mission trips is a great little article to read on this subject.