Categorized | Missions

Short Term Missionary or Tourist?

Posted on 12 October 2011 by Kari Gibson

I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile, but decided to wait and pray about what I really wanted to say to you. I poured my heart out and when I clicked “save draft” the Internet connection at Barns and Noble crashed and I lost everything. (Don’t you hate when that happens!) I appreciate your bloggy friendships and even though most of us have never met in real life, we are friends of the heart. I wanted to challenge you this week to share your thoughts at the end of this post, so we can learn from each other.

A few weeks ago, a post here was brought to my attention and here. I have to be honest, my first reaction, I wanted to KA-POW her posts on short term mission trips comparing them to tourism. I think what was missing was the heart of the matter. We are all called to SIMPLY LOVE. I hope I can point you in the right direction to GO big and LOVE big and SERVE big on a mission trip.  All I could think about was Sammy Liben telling me that living on the trash dump was horrific, but even worse was knowing his community was unimportant. lost, cursed, rejected, unloved. This all changed, when God used Sammy’s passion and a mom named, Sumer Yates to make a real life change for hundreds of children formerly living on the trash dump in Korah. You can visit Project 61 sponsorship program on a Visiting Orphans mission trip and be a part of serving and loving a community that desperately needs care. But, this is only one example … there IS a place for short term missions! I also want to take the time to thank long term missionaries for living each day James 1:27!

I admit, I might be a tad sensitive about the subject being an adoptive mom … but I want to defend and protect what I believe in, too. In fact, just the other day, I found a blog post written (about me) blasting my CRAZY post here. I was encouraging others to take care of orphans and go serve on a mission trip. I guess the blogger didn’t “get” my sense of humor about losing weight on a mission trip. I showed my hubby her post and asked him if I should leave a comment to defend my actions. He reminded me that if we weren’t doing the right thing- others wouldn’t take the time to attack what we are doing. I’m trying to learn not to let their issues become my issues.

(Our sponsor daughter, Mercy)

God used ordinary people like Kristen and Sumer who both went on mission trips to do extraordinary things to help facilitate real life change after the trip? I call this a definite win/win!!

Unfortunately, there are mission trips out there that are more like tourism, than about being ambassadors for Christ. It actually doesn’t take much time to get a sense of an organizations’ priorities. Just look at the trip itinerary and descriptions. How will the participants be spending their time?

“I think the controversy centers around organizations & people who visit with little to no concern for those whom they visit. They take their pictures, buy some souvenirs, give themselves a pat on the back, then head on home. I think one key to preventing this type of “charity” tourism is short-term groups partnering with local, long-term organizations. Another key, in my opinion, is the heart of the sending organizations and the leadership.”

Do you feel there is a place for short term mission trips? What are your thoughts about taking a trip to love and serve orphans? What are some mission trips or organizations you recommend that make a difference AFTER the trip is over?

I received this email from, Jason Clement who was on the Man Up mission team and wanted to share it with you:

It is amazing how our lives can be impacted in a short time period:  the moment you meet your future spouse, the first time you are introduced to a lifelong friend, when you make the decision to take on a new job, and most importantly when “it” clicks and you genuinely accept Christ and receive the Holy Spirit.  Many of these life changing events are set up by moments that occur during a “short term” day, which at sunrise, seemed unassuming. 

 My experience on a short term, 2 week mission trip provided these meaningful moments for the orphans and widows that we encountered.  The obvious opportunities included children at a prison who were not allowed outside for 60 straight days but because of “special guests”, they played soccer on a sunny day over an endless field (felt endless to me while playing with them).  Other obvious moments were receiving new clothes/shelter providing security & confidence they may have never experienced; lepers getting fed full meals with dignity they deserved; homes (64 sq ft mud huts) that were fixed from leaks with new bedding and a floor covering; kids receiving new sport equipment that set them up for joy, friendship, and teambuilding during foundational development years of life; and single mothers who received months’ worth of money for our purchase of their homemade jewelry.  As the Pastor of that village shared with me, “Your group was its own stimulus package to this village and an answer to prayer.”  We spent about only $300 in total, and his attendance in church tripled because of that investment in their lives.

(Jason Clement with the Karamajong Tribe in Ugnada – Man Up Mission Trip 2011)

 Those were all great moments but they pale in comparison to the instances that will spark life changing events for these kids.  One example: We worshipped with children in a government prison.  Hours later while on the soccer field, one child shared with me that he had known OF Jesus for months, but today he met Jesus “locally” and personally.  This 14 year old boy asked Jesus for forgiveness for stealing money from his Uncle to help pay for his father’s medical bills.  He realized that day that he was forgiven and ached to leave prison so that he could study to be a doctor to help men like his father and sick children in prisons.  God has a way of setting the stage for short term mission teams to be an exclamation mark of truth, joy, and communicate His love in people’s lives.  The beauty of our short term mission is that while it was only 2 weeks, it followed a different team’s 2 week trip to the same places, which followed a separate team’s 1 week trip and so on…  While someone may be signing up for just a few days or weeks, their short term mission trip is stitched together by other mission trips & experiences that God has orchestrated to meet these people directly where they need it.  That is why a consistent Man-Up presence can be so powerful:  Widows and young orphans receiving (for some the first time in their life) a CONSISTENT male presence over the course of years that demonstrates our Father’s love, grace, and joy.




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