I hope this is as constructive and inspiring as it is challenging and convicting. Let me know what you think.
I began writing this almost exactly two summers ago (07/29/2008), but never posted it. In light of the Internet Monks Open Mic on Short Term Missions, I decided to resurrect it. It still seems relevant.
For sake of transparency, I have been on two short term missions trip. One service trip to Post Katrina New Orleans and another to do an English camp in Ukraine. I treasure both of these experiences and am eternally thankful for them being a catalyst of discovery in my faith.
The following words are from a debrief of any one of thousands of short term mission trips that have been or will be sent this summer. If you've ever been on a short term missions trip or attended a debrief I'm sure you these words are familiar:
"Amazing experience, amazing stories, looking forward to going back..."
They are clear to communicate it's not the traveling to foreign countries as exciting as that is. It's not the interaction with new cultures, as eye opening as that is. It's not unique experiences, as fun as those are. It is:
A time of unity
A time of prayer
A time of encouragement
A time of shared purpose/mission
A time of extraordinary community
A time of serving
A time of intense growth
A time of testimonies to the power of the Spirit
A time of building relationships
A time of supernatural energy
A time of passionate living
A time of reaching out
A time of loving
And it's for these reasons they can't wait to go on another short term mission trip for 2 week next summer.
Let that sink in for a couple minutes. What are we communicating? What are we modeling to the youth of the Church? What has been modeled to us as the appropriate fulfillment of the mission of the Church? WHY are we settling for something SO much less. When I look at the list of attributes that typify short term mission trips I see a list of attributes that describe a time of true authentic Christian living.
It is clear there is something so appealing about the time that is experienced on a mission trip. But how and why have we structured our lives at home to not facilitate this. And why don't we think about restructuring our lives so that we can?
Is it because of distractions that we aren't willing to cut out?
Is it because of costs we aren't willing to pay?
Is it because of risks we aren't willing to take?
Is it because of comforts we aren't willing to let go of?
Is it because of pleasures we aren't willing to sacrifice?
Is it because of ourselves that we aren't willing to surrender?