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In Defense of Short-Term Missions

The movement has shortcomings. But ultimately, it's worth defending.

A walk through Miami International Airport last August made me wonder if I wanted to write this article. In the airport dozens of teenagers in bright green or yellow team T-shirts advertized to all that they were on a mission for Jesus to some international destination. Haiti and the Dominican Republic appeared to be the favorites. My wife and I (veterans of short-term mission leadership since 1978) watched with ambivalence as hoards of amateur builders, painters, and Vacation Bible School leaders migrated through the airport to their connecting flights.

With now more than one million North Americans going on some form of short-term missions annually, I found myself wondering, "Do I still believe in short-term missions?" The answer, despite the movement's shortcomings, is definitely still yes.

Yet a qualifier is in order. My affirmation of the movement comes with conditions. There must be long-term impact in the lives of both participants and hosts. Advance training, cross-cultural sensitivity ...

January/February
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