The Hard Truth About Mission Trips

Mission trips aim to uplift the marginalized countries around the world by addressing critical problems. You’ll build houses, construct watering holes, teach locals, answer their medical needs, build churches, and do other things to enhance the quality of life in disadvantaged communities. Whether religious or non-religious mission trips, this pursuit offers an opportunity for self-exploration and create positive change, completely transforming you into a different person once the trip is done. 

The phrase “mission trip” can mean differently to different people. For some, it conjures up meaningful memories from the community of people on the other side of the world. For others, it may not be so positive. Missions have been a great way to experience different cultures, serve others, and grow spiritually. However, there have been times where missions fail to perform their goal and end up harming a community more than helping. This might come as a surprise, but not everything is what it seems, and excursions aren’t an exception. 

Below are some of the harsh truths of mission trips. 

A Warped View of Missions

Short-term mission trips are often misunderstood to be humanitarian vacations. You get to go somewhere exotic, feel good helping people and come home with some good stories. But, these pilgrimage stories fed unto first-time missionaries do not offer an accurate perspective of what’s ahead of you. There’s so much that simply cannot be grasped in stories of foreign countries. Even more so when you’re there yourself, the experience is not all warm and fuzzy. It will be eye-opening, definitely taking you out of your comfort zone. To walk into a community of make-shift houses, no sewer system, no water, no food with malnourished locals will be difficult to handle. 

Missions aren’t solely about crossing cultures. It also isn’t about us giving them something they need. The reality of missionaries is complicated and a lot different from what is told.

Brings More Harm than Good

Faith often calls people to humanitarianism. Mission trips may seem like the answer to God’s call to spread His word and generosity everywhere. However, they are not as humanitarian or selfless for most parts. With the exception of trained experts who have resources to meet pressing needs that a community cannot meet for themselves, the work on short-term pilgrimage is rarely helpful as you think it should be. Unlike Dr. Conner’s experiences in Ethiopia, some activities aren’t as essential to the problem the recipients are facing at the moment. 

Most excursions are typically self-serving, racist, and can even be harmful to the people of the marginalized group. Often, missionaries come bearing this sense of privilege and interpret what is seen as their lack. Instead of some senseless missions, a more effective way to alleviate their problems is to build long-term, sustainable programs that work alongside and empower community members to help themselves. 

The amount of good that many missionaries did is incalculable, but let’s not ignore the possible consequences of missions. 

Superficial Relationships

As noble as your intentions and as your heart is filled with love and respect, there is no way to build a deep relationship in just a few days or weeks. Short-term missions won’t give you time to create relationships that means much with either party. In most countries, locals treat guests with respect and kindness. Friendships require time and effort, and minimal interaction and working together don’t suffice—additionally, the language barrier cuts of deep conversations from which most relationships are built. And one last thing, missionaries often go with a complete misunderstanding of the culture and values of the community they want to help, stripping their dignity. This can lead to condescending and superficial relationships that make the volunteer a “savior” and the communities into charity cases. 

The Unknown Danger Lurking At Every Corner

Despite your every intention to serve, love, and do good, it’s possible to hurt yourself and others in the process. These spiritual dangers can undermine the service and learning your trip was meant for. You can never fully protect yourself from certain dangers, spiritual attacks, and even natural disasters. There will always be a possibility of things going wrong.  

All in all, these may be uncomfortable truths, but these shouldn’t stop you from pursuing mission trips. This article isn’t written to denounce people from serving; it is to enlighten you about the harsh reality of becoming a missionary. Still, short and long-term mission trips have a profound and positive impact on life and must be done intentionally. So put in place a clear goal and choose the right mission organizations to serve. Be critical of everything you do and confirm that your motive is pure before setting out for pilgrimage. 


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