Monday, July 9, 2012

Six ways mission trips are dangerous

Have you considered going on a missions trip to an impoverished nation? Maybe you already have been on one {or more}? This year, I got my first official passport and my first official stamps after I went on my first official mission trip to Haiti {if you follow the blog, you probably already know this - I'm a little excited about it - can you tell?}. As I have thought long and hard about this wonderful experience, I have also contemplated how a mission trip {either short or long} could be dangerous.

The dangers I will be talking about are heart issues - not malaria, typhoid, lack of hospital care, guerilla attacks, theft, kidnapping or anything like that. These dangers are what may happen in the depths of your heart and mind - and may be more subtle and therefore, more threatening.

1. As you observe the level of poverty in a third world country, you realize the level of need. This sparks a strong desire inside to help in a very tangible way. This desire can be from the Lord and a result of His calling for your life. Maybe He desires that you spend either your time and/or money in the mission field. The danger arises when you want to help others as way of earning your way into heaven. Now I am sure most people would not use those exact words {at least I hope not}, but it may go something more like this.

There are people who desperately need help. You give time and money in order to help the people. Your own life is not riddled with outward, ugly sin, so you see yourself as a pretty good, moral person {but on the inside where no one can see....that is a different story for us all}.

The danger: You see yourself as a good {moral} person and you are helping out people that others in the world basically ignore. Why on earth would God not want YOU in heaven? Well, the answer is if you haven't repented of your sin and accepted Jesus as your Savior, it does not matter how much "good" you do in the world. You are still a sinner {yes, even small "respectable sins" will keep you out of heaven} and you are in desperate need of a Savior.

2. As you see the vast need of the poor in the world, you start to give of your time and/or money {which is a good thing}, but then you start to develop a feeling of self-righteousness and judging the way others choose to spend their own resources. This is the dangerous part. It is a great thing to help others. It is a horrible, ugly, sinful attitude to judge the way others are spending their resources. Each one of us is on our own walk with the Lord and He will convict each of us differently as He chooses. God is Sovereign and in control of all things. He is the one on the throne in heaven - not you {nor I}.

The danger: The growing root of self-righteousness grows in your heart due to your comparing yourself with others instead of Christ {where we all fall short}.

3. After serving in a country that so desperately needs help and is so quick with the thank you's and praises, it may be difficult to transition back to ordinary life. As a stay at home Mom {like myself} it is hard to see my scrubbing the toilet here in the states to be at the same level of work as working in Haiti. However, we are to do our work as unto the Lord no matter where He has placed us. Right now, God has blessed me with a beautiful family and my work is here serving them. It may be that you are working retail, in an IT department, in a hospital or wherever - but your job is just as important as working on a missions trip, if you are working as unto the Lord. We are here to spread the love of Christ and His gospel - and we can do that anywhere, anyplace, anytime. We need to just look for opportunities. We cannot all be full-time missionaries. If we were, who would be serving here in the states?

The danger: Feeling discontented in your current situation and not feeling as if you are serving at the same level as someone living on the mission field.

4. You went on a mission trip and it felt good when you were there, but almost as quickly as you returned home, your life returned to normal. You were basically unmoved and unchanged. But when others are discussing missions and the needs of the poor around the world, you start to feel puffed up and are quick to chime in with your own experience, as if it were a check off the 'good list' and something to "brag" about.

The danger: Taking something that has the potential to grow you in your walk with the Lord and using it to grow your own pride and self-love instead.

5. It is very obvious that in America, we enjoy many things {and often take for granted} that are considered luxuries in third world countries reserved for the very wealthy and famous. Nearly all of us have these in our very own homes. Things like running water, toilets, refrigerators stocked full of food, heating and cooling, a comfortable bed, water that is not infected with germs and feces. 

There is a danger of going on a mission trip to an impoverished country and walking away feeling blessed, very blessed that God has placed you in America. That doesn't sound bad, does it?  This is a heart issue. There are two ways to look at it. You can walk away and realize that yes, you have been blessed with much and it  humbles you, leading you to want to share with others.

Another way to look at this that God has blessed you with much because you are all that, and a bag of chips. Oh yeah! Wrong.

The danger: Again, growing the self-love and pride in your heart when this should be an opportunity for you to be humbled, compassionate, grateful and giving.

6. It is a reality that there are many, many people in the world that desperately need {need, not want} clean water, food to eat on a daily basis, clothing to wear, shoes for their feet, and medical attention for preventable diseases {and so much more}. But what these people in the third world countries, around the globe and here in America need the most is the gospel. More than a drink of clean water, they need to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It can be difficult to think about a person's spiritual need when their physical need is so very obvious {and there are so many}.

The danger: Being more motivated for social justice than spreading the gospel.

I see two things that must happen before, during and after the trip to ensure that you will not fall into these traps. These are more important than getting those vaccinations and taking that malaria medication.

But that is another post. Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. You got my attention. Waiting for your next post.


I love to hear from my readers so if you are thinking something that is beneficial and profitable (which does not mean you have to agree with me, but at least be nice), then I would love to hear from you!