Mission Trips Matter (But Leave the Heroism at Home)

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Mission Trips Matter (But Leave the Heroism at Home)

Junior Grace Edwards took a trip to South Africa over the summer and described how it “really took a toll on [her] heart to see the harsh conditions that they had to live through, and yet they were still so joyful and grateful for life.” Her group brought the townships meal kits and got to interact with them face-to-face, fostering meaningful connections and completing important service projects. Moments like these are life-changing, exciting and important; however, it’s important for those going on mission trips to assess their own intentions and impact meticulously.

Junior Grace Edwards took a trip to South Africa over the summer and described how it “really took a toll on [her] heart to see the harsh conditions that they had to live through, and yet they were still so joyful and grateful for life.” Her group brought the townships meal kits and got to interact with them face-to-face, fostering meaningful connections and completing important service projects. Moments like these are life-changing, exciting and important; however, it’s important for those going on mission trips to assess their own intentions and impact meticulously.

Junior Grace Edwards took a trip to South Africa over the summer and described how it “really took a toll on [her] heart to see the harsh conditions that they had to live through, and yet they were still so joyful and grateful for life.” Her group brought the townships meal kits and got to interact with them face-to-face, fostering meaningful connections and completing important service projects. Moments like these are life-changing, exciting and important; however, it’s important for those going on mission trips to assess their own intentions and impact meticulously.

Junior Grace Edwards took a trip to South Africa over the summer and described how it “really took a toll on [her] heart to see the harsh conditions that they had to live through, and yet they were still so joyful and grateful for life.” Her group brought the townships meal kits and got to interact with them face-to-face, fostering meaningful connections and completing important service projects. Moments like these are life-changing, exciting and important; however, it’s important for those going on mission trips to assess their own intentions and impact meticulously.

Holley Murray, Literature Editor

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A simple refresh of an Instagram feed around June or July each year reveals the false glamour of everyone’s lives: one friend spent two weeks in the Bahamas, another went backpacking in Europe, and yet another posed for a beachside picture with Justin Bieber in Los Angeles. Among all of those shimmering summer photos, the Humble Friend can be found. She’s posing in a T-shirt from the summer camp she volunteers at, on her knees with muddy hands surrounded by giggling African children. The caption fills up the entire phone screen telling a story about painting an orphanage in Kenya and using words like “love,” “memories,” “serving,” and “family.” It’s heartfelt, but something about it seems off, exaggerated, unreal, and somehow problematic.

Mission trips are certainly no menace to society. They allow anyone from any background of any age to open their eyes to a world outside of their own while also making a difference. However, many people who go on short-term mission trips risk creating more problems than they solve. For one, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and ignore what truly matters. This is what Humble Friend does: the long Instagram post was just one of the thousands of pictures she took to document her good deeds. She could hardly wait to tell all of her friends at home about the life-changing friendship she formed with one of the African orphans, certain that she changed the child’s entire life in the two weeks she spent there. For her, the mission trip is more about the spiritual growth she experienced and less about the impact made on those in need. More than mission work, Humble Friend is experiencing “voluntourism.”

On the other hand, there are more pervasive issues with short-term mission trips to consider. Many people unknowingly go into developing countries with a “White Savior Complex” that promotes dependency rather than actual support. Mission teams often work on projects that the community could have completed themselves, creating an attitude among the natives that there is no need for them to work for themselves when a different group of white high-schoolers will appear every other week to build new houses. Those doing mission work risk viewing themselves as the sole rescuers of a dying people, and the recipients are consequently made to feel patronized or enabled (or both).

Taking a short-term mission trip is not meaningless, nor is it a worthless contribution to the world. Junior Grace Edwards took a trip to South Africa over the summer and described how it “really took a toll on [her] heart to see the harsh conditions that they had to live through, and yet they were still so joyful and grateful for life.” Her group brought the townships meal kits and got to interact with them face-to-face, fostering meaningful connections and completing important service projects. Moments like these are life-changing, exciting and important; however, it’s important for those going on mission trips to assess their own intentions and impact meticulously.