I’ve written on the problems with short term mission trips before. But what should or could we do instead to both use the resources we have access to more wisely and, at the same time, prevent the problem of dependency (HT Missional Edge).
Several years ago the church we were in at the time hosted a missionary couple who described a radical (to me anyway) way they were approaching missions. Their approach was to plant a for-profit business designed to raise the local workers’ standard of living. After hearing how they operated and how their missionary efforts actually ended up turning a profit for the International Mission Board1, I developed quite a fondness for this Business as Missions model of changing lives, and hopefully hearts. This struck me as a perfect opportunity to help the poor in other nations while at the same time honoring them by helping develop long term sustainable economic growth wherein all the people around them would hopefully be blessed.
It has become hugely popular for short term missionaries (or vacationaries) to 3rd world nations to We go over to 3rd world countries, notice the poverty and complain about it. But complaining and handouts don’t lift nations out of poverty. The only thing known to do that is capitalism.
Capitalism is what makes a country go from 3rd world to 1st world. Handouts will not only help a country grow economically, they will actually end up hurting them.
Where as our current approach to missions tends to produce dependency , a focus on economically developing an area through micro loans given to local people through a trustworthy agency has the potential to radically change an area for the better. Organizations like Kiva, who seek out local partners that are interested in the long-term growth and development of an area have been shown to produce real, lasting results.
For those who still are inclined to travel the world, the focus of such trips should be on the long-term growth and development of the people. Not the short-term decision-for-Christ-so-we-can-count-another-notch-in-our-belt.
Selfless entrepreneurs can and should be sent to selflessly serve and help setup businesses in the 3rd world to help left their culture out of poverty.2
Here are a few videos to help you understand what we as a Christian community can do if we stop wasting our money on short term vacations and, instead, seek to be responsible with how we invest our time, money, and energy.
Bonus, Hans Rosling mentions microfinance in this Ted Talk video on the statistics of global poverty:
- For some reason I do not think this couple remained with IMB. I don’t think this model of missions fits the hand-out view of missions most Southern Baptists seem to favor. [↩]
- People whose only gift is preaching are almost wholly worthless in my estimation for the long-term growth and development of an area in my estimation. [↩]