I love short-term mission trips. I know what to pack (don't forget the headphones and packing cubes) and how to ensure a team of 30 gets through customs in time for the next flight. I know what it takes to construct a house in Jamaica for a family of 6 and how to run a youth sports camp in Poland. We go, we do, and we leave.
I've realized over the years that perhaps it's less about the what of what we do in missions and more about the how. Here are a few things I wish I'd learned sooner that would have transformed the way I approached missions.
You're Not a Hero
Yes, that's right. You are not a hero. Before you leave on your next trip, do yourself and your team a favor and get rid of that hero complex. The people you are serving don't need a hero for a week. They can actually build the house you're going to build about 4,000 times faster than you. It's not about doing things for them. It's about doing life with them. Talk to them, hear their stories, let them feed you and become their friend.
Poverty Can Look Different Than You Think
If you end your trip with pity in your heart for the extreme poverty you've witnessed, you're doing it wrong. Poverty should break our hearts, open our eyes, and stir thankfulness, but you're missing out if you don't let it teach you that poverty isn't limited to a lack of things.
On my last trip to a remote village, I realized midway through the week that I actually felt sorry for myself and my American culture. These people carried a joy and a love for life and family in a way that's rarely seen in our society. I ended my trip humbled over how much I'm the one who is lacking.
Don't Put On a Mask
Some people in developing nations believe that everyone from the U.S. is rich, white and always happy. We know that's not true, of course. Take the time to be vulnerable and real while you're there. Focus on building relationships instead of just completing projects.
Short-term mission trips are a big deal. Lives are changed and communities forever impacted by the Gospel. As we follow the call to go, let's keep how we go about our calling in the forefront of our minds. Let it be about relationships instead of projects. Let Jesus be glorified as the one true hero.
Written by: Aarika Jackson
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