Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the content
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.

Every time I hear of another $3,000 short-term mission trip, I think about Dan and Mary, whose ministry to Knoxville's refugee community is chronically underfunded. I think about the 1,600 meals that the same sum would pay for at our rescue mission. I think about the inner city schoolteacher who dips into her $34,000 salary to pay for pencils and treats. I think of the 83-year-old widow with the $700 winter heating bill, waiting for a new roof she can't afford. I think about the 50 children of prisoners on the waiting list for the underfunded Amachi mentoring program. I think about the 30 children who have never seen a deer who could go to a Bible camp in the mountains for the same amount of money it takes to send one person overseas for a week. And I think about the starving boy on my swim team.

I do believe we are changing. Churches in Knoxville with strong foreign mission programs are beginning to invest considerable resources in meeting the spiritual and physical needs of the weakest members of our community.

Without these resources, I couldn't coach Martin.

Martin never stopped shivering that summer, but he did start swimming faster. I made some calls to see if Martin might join a year-round swim program. The local swimming community was eager to help. Then Martin stopped showing up. Nobody at his house returned our calls, and Martin missed the rest of our meets. At our year-end swim banquet, we gave Martin the "Most Improved Swimmer" award. He wasn't there to receive it. A friend and I drove the award to his house after the banquet. After many knocks, a man answered the door. He wasn't happy to see us. We handed him Martin's trophy and told him how well Martin swam. "I don't know where he is," the man said. He shut the door.

Doug Banister lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is the pastor of All Souls Church
and coaches the Emerald Youth Foundation Swim Team. His new book, Seek the Peace of the City: Ten Ways to Bless the Place Where You Live, is available for free download.


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.
Furniture Fit for the Kingdom

Furniture Fit for the Kingdom

For Harrison Higgins, building beautiful furniture is not simply a steady job but a sacrament unto God.
Faith in a Fallen Empire

Faith in a Fallen Empire

Detroit's list of maladies is long. But some Christians' commitment to its renewal is longer.
'Daddy, Why Do People Steal from Us?'

'Daddy, Why Do People Steal from Us?'

How I answered the question would prove crucial to addressing racial divides in our D.C. neighborhood.

Comments Are Closed

Displaying 4–8 of 12 comments


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.

Pete Dayton

July 27, 2013  2:33pm

Very much agree with you, Doug. I have mentored several inner-city kids and have transported them to swim lessons at the only inner-city pool in Knoxville. I was so happy that UT Aquatic club did these for free and amazed at how many kids in the community had never been in a pool! I wound up overloading my car for several summers with kids and had to turn down many due to a lack of transportation. I agree with Chany(above) in that every time I see a movie from a returning youth STMT and ending with a middle-class student from the suburbs crying because they had to leave a "new friend" from a third world country, I think how many kids within a 15 mile radius are dying to have a new friend which have access anytime. I also have felt the pain of losing one of my "Martins" seemingly disappearing overnight. Thanks for the article.


Make a contribution to help support the This Is Our City project and the nonprofit ministry Christianity Today.Learn more ...


RT @MissionYear: A great collection of articles from @ct_city @CTmagazine http://t.co/OLmjHvUIfr

In honor of Kim Newlen, a friend of @ct_city who died Saturday, we share our story of her battle with cancer: http://t.co/S3FGKhVDuo

RT @CTmagazine: After three years, hundreds of stories, thousands of readers, our tribute to This Is Our City: http://t.co/Gz35NhAdqc @ct_c2026

The top 10 stories of @editor @KatelynBeaty picks her favorites and reflects on lessons learned in 3 years: http://t.co/BQxYdaoyD9

"As a community we have to do a better job of rescuing these young people." The newest (and last) City video: http://t.co/vZL0cRKO7H #RVA