A Pressing Question for Christians: To Go or Not to Go … on a Short-Term Mission Trip?

CNS News | 8/22/2019 | Staff
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I recently returned from a mission trip to Brazil with eleven members of my Presbyterian church in Wilmington, North Carolina. Partnering with a Presbyterian congregation in Manaus, our team, which included three physicians and two nurses, furnished medical assistance, dental instruction, drugs, and eye glasses to more than 600 children and adults in four remote villages on a tributary of the Amazon. To accomplish this, we traveled 600 miles by boat over the course of a week. Armed with several thousand dollars of medical supplies donated by the Brazilian government and healthcare providers in Wilmington, we treated hundreds of children with worms caused by drinking polluted water and adults who had a wide variety of ailments. Two of the villages had not had any medical assistance since our last visit in 2014.

Last summer, I led a team of fourteen members from my church on a mission trip to Malawi where we also have a partnership with a Presbyterian church. There, among other activities, we participated in the celebration of the opening of two wells that brought pure water to villagers.

Millions - Americans - Mission - Trips - Relevant

Millions of other Americans have gone on short-term mission trips. Relevant Magazine estimates that 1.5 million Americans participate in these trips every year. We go in response to the biblical commandments to proclaim the gospel message and aid the least of these. After all, we have great wealth and millions in developing nations are suffering from poverty, disease, and homelessness. Our Christian convictions and compassion motivate us to want to help.

We spend billions of dollars to pay for the transportation, lodging, food, and other costs of these trips. While these trips are usually spiritually uplifting and emotionally exhilarating, many, like me, ask: do they truly have positive benefits and could the money have been better used.

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In their book “When Helping Hurts:...
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