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Rethinking the $3,000 Missions Trip
Image: Courtesy of Katie Norrell

Rethinking the $3,000 Missions Trip

When I learned that kids in my city couldn't swim, I started to rethink how much I'd invested in overseas missions.

Along the way, a pastor named Johnny began showing me what the city looked like from the front lawn of his cash-strapped inner-city church. As I spent more time in Knoxville's at-risk neighborhoods, I realized that I knew more about poverty in Tulcea than I knew about poverty in Knoxville. I was pursuing the common good of a city across the world while neglecting the common good of the place where I lived.

I don't think I'm alone. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, "All of life is interrelated. . . . We are inevitably our brother's keeper because we are our brother's brother. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly." Most Christians I know believe this in a global sense. We feel a God-given burden for the starving child in Haiti. Yet we sometimes lack a similar burden for the Martins back home.

A good example of this imbalanced approach to mission is the exploding popularity of short-term missions. In his book When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert observes that short-term missions have become a $1.6 billion annual enterprise in America. Every year, thousands of Christians in our city take short-term trips that cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per person.

I believe in missions. I also believe in short-term mission trips. Yet the longer I work in the resource-poor inner city, the more frustrated I become with the amount of money God's
people spend on these brief trips. We seem so eager to spend thousands of dollars sending our people overseas for one week without stopping to ask, "Would some of this money be better invested in my own community?"

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Rethinking the $3,000 Missions Trip

Rethinking the $3,000 Missions Trip

When I learned that kids in my city couldn't swim, I started to rethink how much I'd invested in overseas missions.
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Displaying 3–7 of 12 comments

Christoph Koebel

August 02, 2013  11:30pm

Okay another article which ATTACKS mission trips. They see only the $3,000 ticket for LIFE CHANGING INVESTMENTS. My first "missiontrip" did not cost me $3,000, since I grew up on the LEAST REACHED continent. There are bad and well organized mission trips. Some companies, like OM, do that for over 50 years. Let us reach folks across the street and across the world.

ROBERT DI GIORGIO

August 01, 2013  12:38am

Mission trips are not usually far-away vacations. They introduce locals to missions. Some who go may decide to become missionaries. Some may come back with a desire to support missions. The question is not which is better or more important, the question is what does God's Spirit lead each one of us to do?

Maj G

July 31, 2013  4:43pm

In addition to administering a Christ-centered drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in California, I serve on the board of a missions organization that sends groups on short term trips around the world. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the sheer weight of human need in my city and in distant places. I am greatly inspired and comforted that Christians are being moved by God the Holy Spirit to 'do something' even if they cannot rationally explain the economics or the outcomes (like Martin). In the end, we have all served Christ and have hopefully been humbled by exposure to Him as the least among us.

John pierce

July 31, 2013  10:03am

My church does both. Once or twice each year we send teams to Central America to engage in building and other projects, but we also minister in the inner city, not only of our own general area (Columbus, OH), but also of others not close to home such as Cleveland. But in doing all this, we don't neglect our own suburban area, either (where people are spiritually needy). I realize that not all churches have our particular set of resources, but I think that the Lord provides what is needed for the task(s) to which He has called.

Rebecca M

July 28, 2013  2:39am

Excellent article. However, was any follow up made of the boy? or did he simply dissappear from the radar? God bless your efforts.

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