Kurt Ver Beek, assistant professor of sociology and third-world development at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently published the a study that questioned whether short-term missionaries and those served by such missionaries experienced long-term life changes from such missions. We summarized that study and asked Ver Beek to discuss his work further with Robert Priest, associate professor of mission and intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. At the end of the discussion, Ver Beek and Priest will take readers' questions, which may be submitted via e-mail.
Your commitment to exploring the impact of short-term missions (STMs) on the communities where STMs serve is right on the mark! Dr. Tito Paredes, a Peruvian missiological anthropologist, and I are leading a research team that is just starting research on this. With several Ph.D. students from North America and several Peruvian Master's students (themselves church leaders), we are beginning to explore the experiences of Peruvians with STM groups from North America, Korea, and Europe.
Of course we are not nearly so far along as you are, but are nonetheless already learning much.
Let me pick up just one of your themes this time around. You mentioned how much Hondurans valued relationships with North American visitors. Social scientists have often stressed that relationships and social connectedness are core to the good life in society. Whether within a society or on a global scale, such patterns of connectedness (of trust, reciprocity, relational commitment, volunteerism, and philanthropy) constitute a kind of "social capital." That's something well worth fostering. ...1