I’ve already shared that I believe God has called me to Uganda, but I also wanted to share a bit more about why I believe that. I also thought there was no better time than now to share my thoughts about leading a short term mission trip. These are entirely my opinions that I’ve acquired from books on the subject, people I respect, and scripture I’ve read.
This may shock you, but I am not going on this trip to change the lives of the people of Uganda. I do not by any means believe that my few days interacting with someone there and providing a few donations will drastically improve a person’s life. It can be very easy to look down on someone living in a third world country with pity. Yes, living conditions are extremely bad and are worse than anything you can imagine, but in many ways the people I have met in Uganda are so much richer than I am. So, I am not leading a trip for them. I want to lead mission trips for the people on my team. It is so exciting to me to see someone experience their first mission trip. I love watching people find a passion they never knew they had and have their heart break for a place they knew little about. I want to lead people through that heartbreak, so that they can come home and DO SOMETHING. I was once told, “Compassion without action is simply pity.” I want to guide people through a door to finding God’s calling. Adoption, child sponsorship, long term mission work, raising awareness, raising funds…just something. What good is a mission trip, if you return the same as when you left?
Yet, it’s not all about us either. So how can I be a part of short term mission work that is truly effective and does not end up causing more harm than good? I highly recommend reading “Helping Without Hurting” to learn more on this topic. This would quickly turn into a much longer blog post than you would want to read if I let it. One way I have tried to ensure that I do more good than harm is to travel with an organization called Visiting Orphans. Something that I love about Visiting Orphans, among many things, is that they establish relationships with the ministries we work with and are continuously monitoring those relationships. My team will not just visit a ministry for a few days only to leave never to return. There are teams constantly serving with these ministries and individuals supporting them. We will not go in with a savior mentality or hand out gifts like we are Santa. We are there to support and serve the leaders of the ministries we work with.
It’s such a fine line to walk when going on short term mission trips. It does feel good to hand out gifts and have kids immediately fall in love with you, but that can quickly become an idol. It has to be about God’s glory. I once was on a trip where I had an allergic reaction that caused me to break out in hives. My calling for that trip, was to sit in a room alone and pray for the rest of my team. God’s calling is not always glamorous.
I am such a teeny, tiny part of the big picture. I am no better because my calling sends me to Uganda. You see we are all called to care for the orphan and widow. Time and time again in scripture God lays out His heart for orphans and widows. And time and time again He calls His people to be His hands and feet. James 1:27 states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” There are things that are not necessarily laid out in black and white in scripture, but this is. It is perfectly clear that we are all called to care for the orphan and widow. It is just a matter of finding your place to do it.
Ask God to give you His heart, to break your heart. I absolutely believe He will answer that prayer. God will give you a passion for something. And then, “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive,” (Howard Thurman). Leading others to discover their passion, fighting against the injustices I have seen, and fighting for the orphan are what have kept me awake at night and consumed my thoughts. That is what makes me come alive, and until God changes my heart, that is what I will do.