Sunday, July 22, 2012

Toxic charity

I have recently been reading about the value of missions trips.  I am ambivalent about them.  I think every young person should probably go on one, but there's a limit to how many of these one-week evangelo-tourism trips we should countenance.

1.  Twenty teenagers sent to a foreign country at the cost of $2,000 each to go build a church.  That $40,000.  Why not hire local labor for much less and give persons meaningful work?

2.  Missionaries like the visits of folks from home, but they also have to deal with them.  A friend of mine in Japan had groups in to build a new church building (in this case, it was cheaper than hiring Japanese labor).  But the Americans didn't want to eat Japanese food, which meant an expense and time for the missionary to feed them.  If you are going overseas for a week or so, buck up and eat what the people eat.

3.  There is no hard proof that the trips make people any more missions oriented in the long run.

4.  And as usual, the people on the field are basically being told, "You need Americans to come do this," so their agency is taken away.  I would imagine this leads to resentment.

4.  Exceptions:  Longer trips to perform needed functions or to prepare oneself for full-time or permanent service in the future.  If someone has a skill or credential that can be used that no one available does, that is a different matter (as in medical professionals).   And I think every young person should get a freebie--every young person should get one overseas trip just so they know reality.  But multiple trips are excessive.  Also, trips near by (driving distance) are useful.

I sound like cranky person, but I am reassessing stewardship for myself and thus for others. I have often wanted to go on these trips but recently realized that paying $3,000 for one week in another country would only be a way for me to feel good about myself, not really accomplish anything.  A whole summer teaching English or using my credentials, that would be different. 

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