I sent this letter to the Andros team today, but am copying it here. I am not the only one that is bothered by this. I’ve spoken to several of my Ugandan friends who are, as well.
I was reminded today of something that I meant to discuss at the meeting, before we were so rudely interrupted by the nice fireman evacuating us… Please share this with your kids, since I don’t have everyone’s email address.
Something has swept the short term missions trip world over the last 5-10 years. I noticed it for the first time 3 or 4 years ago, and have been watching it play out in successive short term missions teams that I’ve encountered and stayed in the same location with in Uganda. And that’s this philosophy (this is a quote from a blog I read today):
The trip is primarily about us, not them. And that’s OK. This is an insight trip to expand our spiritual horizons, see how faith works when resources are severely limited, discover how God is at work among culturally and theologically diverse people.
I’m not sure where this sprung up, but I can tell you that, in my opinion and those of Ugandans who house and interpret for and guide missions teams, it has been extremely detrimental to the good work that short term missions trips should be doing to advance the Kingdom. Now, the article also talks about not encouraging a victim/give-me mentality with a lot of free stuff, and that’s fine. But this idea of “The trip is primarily about us, not them” is a dangerously slippery spiritual slope.
Americans always think things are about us, unfortunately. I guess Brits and Congolese and Japanese do, too. But when you feel God pressing you to go on a missions trip, He is NOT saying that that trip is about you. That trip is about HIM. The single purpose of the trip is to go where He is sending you, tell the people that you are there because He loves them enough to send you, and then share that love with them. That can take the form of evangelism, a sports camp, a VBS, hospital visits, or building an orphanage. The WHAT isn’t important, except that you are obedient to God’s vision of the what. But the WHY is vitally important!
Going into a foreign country, especially one with great poverty, and presuming to tell people what they need without asking their needs is a problem. Many missions trips do this, and they don’t see anything wrong with it because “it’s about them, and that’s ok.” You are there for one reason, and one reason only: God. He has something that He wants to impart to the people you are serving, something that will show them that He hasn’t forgotten them, that He loves them just as much as He loves you, and that we are all part of one body.
Your spiritual journey might be advanced by a short term missions trip, and that’s certainly a blessing. But it’s not why you go. If this is why you have signed up for the Andros trip, I would encourage you to really seek the Lord about it. I hope that we all have fun, that the trip goes as we’ve planned, and that everyone is safe. I hope that the trip opens your eyes to things about God and the world that you didn’t know before, and that you receive a revelation that will lead you into bigger and greater things in His Kingdom. But that’s not why we’re going.
God has called me to both Uganda and Andros for relationships., to show the people there the things that He wants and needs to show them through me or my kids or the people we bring. It’s about knowing and loving the people as God knows and loves the people. For me, it is vitally important that we all prepare for the trip with this mind- and heart-set. This trip is NOT primarily about us, and we will only accomplish what God has in mind for the trip if we embrace that fact.
Thanks for your willingness to go and represent Him.
PS. Oswald Chambers has a lot to say about “workers for God.” I’d encourage you to read him!