Friday, March 06, 2015

Top 10 Ways 2 Ruin a Short Term Mission Trip...

10.  Assume You Understand - Instead, assume you don't understand.  Don't draw conclusions without lots of questions and listening (and then question your conclusions again). 

9.  Assume Cultural Superiority - Realize, that you dress like you dress, walk like you walk, buy the stuff you buy, talk the way you talk, sit the way you sit, dream the way you dream, think the way you think, all because of your own context, and the context of your ancestors.  Don't assume it is the better or right way.  Assume it is simply a different way.  Constantly say, "It's not weird, it's just different".

8.  Assume You Understand the Root Cause and Solution of Economic Poverty - Don't assume you understand the definitions of wealth and poverty.  Poverty is complex.  There aren't easy solutions.  Immediately upon your arrival, maybe even within 5 minutes of leaving the airport, you may start to dream of possible solutions.  It's what we do, but it's just crazy!  Don't assume the causes of laziness, corruption, or ignorance either.  Instead, respect, love and serve.

7.  Get Upset When Plans Change - Instead, put on "Gumby" like flexibility.

6.  Keep Your Distance for Security and Health Reasons - Don't be stupid, but force yourself to get out of your comfort zone so you can more effectively love and be loved. serve and be served.  Know the difference between foolishness and wisdom, and/or work with those on the ground who do.

5.  Exclusively Choose Production Over Relationship - Although Americans would like to think it is true, production, (aka doing something), isn't always the highest priority.  Think "Mary/Martha". Take the time to love.  Take time to laugh.  Take time to pray.  Take time to listen.  Just BE.  Prioritize relationship. When you go to visit someone in the hospital, it isn't about doing something.  It is about being together, encouraging one another, and sharing time.  We call it the "ministry of presence".  By the way, get something done.  Don't exclusively choose relationship over production either!

4.  Be Like Santa Claus - Your main goal is not to give out stuff...  Hand out candy... Hand out dollar bills... Yes, we've seen it, but seriously, stop it.  It makes us feel good, but it can confuse the Gospel message we carry and hurt in the end.  I know you want to be generous, and this is a good and necessary thing, but please do so in an appropriate setting, in a culturally sensitive way that will truly help those who need it, not just those who are asking.  Why do children here in Haiti put their hand out every time a white person drives by?  Because they see the likeness of Santa.  I prefer they see the likeness of Jesus.  Yes, the man asking for those flip flops may go sell them to buy a lottery ticket.  By the way, be generous ;)

3.  Don't Collaborate on Goals - Your goals and their goals are likely different because you value different things.  Listen to one another. Come up with a collaborative approach, steeled in the bed of understanding, in which both parties can do their part.  Remember, it's reciprocal.  You aren't coming to fix those on the field.  You might just be the one that needs fixing!

2.  Work "Directly" with Nationals - Say what? Don't misunderstand me, I am playing with words a little. We only want to work alongside an indigenous movement, organization, ministry, leadership, etc.  We work with a team of nationals under the authority and direction of an autonomous and indigenously led church association.  We are One Team with One Mission.  Yet, SO. MANY. TIMES. we have heard SO. MANY. STORIES. of American churches that wanted to bypass a "middle-man/org" and work "directly" with a national church and they got burned. T.S. Eliot said, "“Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions.” Why does this good intention fail so often? There are many reasons, but here are 2... First, and sadly, there are many nationals (Americans too!) who are looking for opportunity who may not have the greatest God honoring motives. They are looking for you, so these are often the ones you will come in contact with and start working with.  Second, you need a cross-cultural team on the ground that can be your bridge to partnership... Cross-Cultural collaboration is just really hard. It takes LOTS of patience, understanding, trust, respect and relationship that has developed over long periods of time. I know you may think you are different, but it is next to impossible to effectively jump in and out of your context, while asking someone on the field to do the same.  Developing trust and respect over the phone/email is often a minefield.  Working with fellow Americans on American soil is hard enough, but when you throw in international cross-cultural complexities, the road gets tougher (quite literally).  We have found that working with a cross-cultural team who is firmly planted on the ground, that exists of mutually minded Americans AND Nationals, who are walking and working through life together, is the only way to go.  As an American here in Haiti who is investing lots of time building relationship and trust, together with my team, we can more effectively navigate the minefield and bring true cross-cultural partnership.  It's not easy, but it's worth it.

1.  Don't Plan and Prepare - So many short term teams hit the ground with no preparation.  Here in our organization, we have taken the time to produce a training manual that we require all of our teams to go through in pre-trip sessions.  Why?  We want our teams to be prepared physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, geographically, linguistically, culturally, etc. We work hard to give a schedule to each of our team members upon their arrival with a clearly defined plan for the week.  We feel it is a non-negotiable as we endeavor to have the greatest impact on both Americans and Nationals alike.

If you want to develop a 1:1 church partnership like this in Haiti, please contact us at  

No comments :