Mission trips

View from CTS across the rooftops of Colombo

Thanks to Jonathan who pointed to this: Who Says “No” to “Mission Trips”?
I had not found Sri Lankan theologian Vinoth Ramachandra‘s site. It is full of excellent stuff.

In this post, the description of many mission trips as attempts to make a holiday sound holy is so true. It raises sharply issues at the heart of such activities:

  • a visit of a few weeks is not enough to even begin to learn about another people and place
  • the visitors have money and power – the locals usually have not
  • if you can’t speak the language and do not understand (a bit) local culture what good is your visit

He also tells (too briefly) of two chinese women who are on a real “mission trip”:

I heard recently of two Chinese women who felt called to be missionaries in Cambodia. So they simply went there overland and took jobs in a factory, and joined a local church.

Their experiences would be worth listening to. By contrast, if Western people need exposure to other ways of life:

…in America, Europe and Australia, there are millions of people today from every religion, culture and nation to be found in almost every major city: why not stay and learn about “mission” from the local churches that are working among such people?

And if people want/need more:

It baffles us why such Christian kids cannot learn about the world by doing what I, and several millions of their non-Christian peers, have done over decades: simply travelling as tourists and exploring the countries we visit, learning about the history and culture as we do so.

If the energy and money channeled into short term mission trips could be put to less selfish use think what could be achieved!

And now the really hard questions: What, if anything, distinguishes our visits to the Thai-Burma border from the sort of “short-term mission trip” Vinoth so aptly spears? Was our visit to his country to teach a course at CTS really significantly different (particularly if one removes Western ideas about the importance of getting the job done, and focuses instead on people and relationships)?

3 comments on “Mission trips

  1. Nate

    I go every Christmas holiday and build a house (we call it a house, but it is smaller than my garage) in Mexico. Should I stop going? I don’t think so. I think there is something to being said for being exposed to other parts of the world. How many of those student missionaries would actually go and travel the world, or at least see the parts of the world they see during a mission trips?
    I think I get what is being said, there is a fine line between acting Christian even on mission trips and being a Christian. But I think the pros out weight the cons.

    1. tim

      Hi, Nate, I don’t think people should stop “going”. But I do think people should go differently from the way it has usually been done. There are too many who are unconsciously arrogant and assume their ways are necessarily everyone’s ways. That is not a “mission trip”. But you say you return every Christmas, so probably you are getting to know people, and how their culture works, and learning not to offend by accident…

  2. Pingback: Mission trips again… - Sansblogue