Guys, this is a tough one. I love short-term missions. My life was forever changed by short-term missions or I wouldn't be writing about it, right? My parents were long-stem missionaries in New Zealand for years (I was born during that time!). AND!! ... yes, there is an AND ...
Lemme just get this out of the way immediately: there is NO substitute for the career missionary. Yeah, I'm sorry, not even you. *wink* And I know you agree or you wouldn't be doing short term missions in the first place.
BUT! That statement I just made should not discourage you nor should it invalidate your excitement. Yet the reality is that short-term missions, however helpful they are, do not balance a real decline in long-term commitments.5 Many talented and God-serving people like yourself are being sent in teams to administer formidable endeavours while there are many more individuals with long-term mission goals who are unsupported. This troublesome statistic raises the question who are these trips benefiting? If we are honest with ourselves, we may realize that the answer is ... *sigh* ... us.
There are several churches in the United States who send thousands of people every year to do short-term forays in places like Zimbabwe, Bulgaria, Honduras, Ghana, China, Haiti, and Kazakhstan, while supporting no one on a full-time basis in those countries. It might be interesting to see just how many Christians would opt for donating to short-term teenagers instead of committing their resources to full-time missionaries. It is easy, it is a one-time gift, and it doesn’t usually hurt anyone. But that is a big lie ... because it does hurt somebody.
As you may know from scooting around this blog, I have a long history of short- and long-term missions. Boy, do I know about fund-raising. And there is one thing I have learned that I would like to pass on to you. Maybe you can do something about it. I have been involved with missions for so many years and have many supporters, family and friends, through prayer or money. When my teams have had to raise money for myself on a short-term trip there is always the nervousness that we might not make our goal. But we always do! These supporters are big givers with big hearts for teen missions.
But then there is my cousin, Ryan. He and his wife, Amanda, were full-time missionaries in Mexico City. They were good missionaries. They sent regular reports to their supporting churches and most of those reports contained a list of relationships they are making, church groups that are meeting in their home, or people who have come to Christ. However, they had to come back to the states three times in two years to raise money and still did not always reach their goal for daily necessities. And they did not need much more monthly support than one and a half of my team members get for a week or two on a quick mission voyage.
So this week's proverb is, “A fool and his money are soon parted; often with a going-away party.” The Gentle Translation is this: Avoid Accidentally Taking Away a Long-Termer's Life Support
The last time I lead a mission trip, we raised, among 12 of us, over $20,000. Did you know that, depending on the country, it only takes about $15,000-$30,000 to support one missionary for an entire year? And we were only there for one week! I can’t kid myself by thinking we did more good in a week than Molly or Kim or Ryan do in a year. Our one week could have supported almost an entire year for some missionary, in some cases even covered their salary!
When you return from your trip, you will probably understand the great necessity for supporting full-time workers. Now. HERE IS HOW YOU CAN HELP:Remember them when you start making money, okay? If you are already making money ... remember them! Although $25 here and there throughout the year to support a short-termer is noteworthy, $25 a month makes a big dent in supporting our guys who have made mission work their career.
So no, our beloved long-termers aren’t merely exhausted by various difficult attitudes. What may tire many of them is seeing good monetary support deflected by groups and sometimes even piece-meal humanitarian projects whose efforts have the long-lasting effect of ... maybe two months. There is a bundle of money going into short-term groups and some of these career missionaries could give some more expedient advice on where to spend it! They would also argue thatshort-term missions should not be discouraged, of course, but that it is imperative to seriously consider why we do them, encourage guidance, and then consider what we have to offer with the long-term effects in mind.
Oh yeah, it definitely makes us feel good to see ourselves building some structure and passing out food, clothes, or medicine in a slide show or a video. It changes our perspective to be with people who “don’t have what we have” or live in what we consider a cozy home. In this generation, where it is quite easy to travel, it is easy to want to experience other cultures and hope to do some good along the way.
Just please remember, there are many a serendipity to short-term work, but any one of them should not be the only objective. Yet you already knew that ... right?