The worst missionary, and her scary prayer for STM teams
This post is dedicated to STM Kenya!
Our church is sending a Short-Term Missions trip to Kenya this week. Also, I’ve been working on a book on STM, so a friend sent me a link to an interesting blog post. It’s a bit more extreme and sideways than what I propose in my book, but I thought I’d share it with you for your consideration and entertainment.
If you want a taste of my own view, I wrote a chapter on STM in MacArthur’s book Rediscovering Evangelism, which you can read here.
To be clear, I didn’t write this post. It’s by a lady who calls herself, ”Jamie: the very worst missionary.” You’ll see why…
Also, I edited the words South Africans consider swear words. No, I’m not kidding. And I do wonder how she prays for her enemies.
Whenever I pray for short-term missionaries, I pray that their trip would be an absolute disaster.
Seriously, I do. I pray that all of their luggage would be lost, their money would be stolen, and, above all, their coordinated team shirts would accidentally catch fire.
I guess it sounds kind of mean when I say it like that, but I honestly think that’s what needs to happen in order for anyone engaged in a short-term missions experience to truly thrive.
It’s just that somewhere along the way, we’ve managed to make short-term missionary teams into something that more resembles tourists on safari. We’ve given them an unofficial uniform of khaki pants and funny shoes from REI, and goofy matching t-shirts (designed in the hopes that people in the airport will see them and ask them what they’re doing so that they can be “evangelized.”) Then we load them up with supplies and money and luggage and we send them off to bless the [sock off] everyone whose paths they cross.
But the best part is when we bring short-term teams to the ghetto. That’s where we put poor people on display, like zoo animals, so that we can marvel at how they live. We snap pictures of their dirt floors and scary outhouses. We mourn their kid’s dirty bare feet and bad teeth, and we delight in helping with their menial tasks. Then we build them a little house or throw a carnival for the kids, or whatever. All as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus, of course.
Third world countries have been receiving these kinds of teams for many, many years now. And the result is a mutually exploitative relationship between Poverty and the Church. The church exploits the poor for a “feel-good” experience, and the poor exploit the church for material goods and services.
Ok. Everybody wins, but Jesus… *sigh*
The thing is, Jesus gave us a model for short-term teams.
He said (and I’m going way beyond paraphrasing here), “Pray and then go. But don’t take a bunch of [junk]. In fact, don’t take anything…
…Don’t make a spectacle of yourself on the way by stopping everyone in the airport to tell what you’re doing. When you get to where you’re going, stay with one local family and let them meet your needs. Get to know them. Let them feed you and clothe you, and let them give you a place to sleep. And in return for their hospitality, serve them well. Work [diligently] so that your stay in their home will be worthwhile. Oh, and don’t complain about the food, just eat it.”
So, basically, we do it, like, completely opposite of how Jesus did it.
We’ve taken an opportunity to learn to be dependant on God and others and, instead, made poor communities dependent upon us. We’ve taken the chance to become a part of a new family and learn a new culture, and turned that into a creepy 30-minute photo-op. And where we could be serving under the head of a household (who best knows his own needs), we come marching in with a plan to “help” and the supplies to get it done, and we miss out on the gift of being a “worker worth his wages”.
I dunno. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like we’re missing the point with the whole short-term missionary thing. Ya know?
So that’s why I pray the way I do. My hope is not that the short-termer would be miserable, but that they would be dependent. And not that they would be uncomfortable, but that they would be engaged in the culture. And not that their corny matching t-shirts would be obliterated because they’re just lame, but…ok, yeah, that anyway.
All that to say that I’m praying for you, [STM team].
But, don’t be afraid. I’m simply praying that your short-term missions experience will be everything Jesus wanted for it. And that you would return filled with Joy.
Will you join me in praying that [their] trip is disastrous in all the right ways? Have you ever been on a disastrous missions trip, yourself?