As the About section states, I’m just an 18 year old who is still trying to understand numerous things in the world around me. I realize that this blog may be helpful in bringing light to some of these things that I don’t think I’m understanding very well. Even if no one reads this, I think it still serves a useful purpose in allowing me to gather my thoughts on a subject and perhaps discover something new about it that I didn’t know initially. Anyways, I digress…
Recently on Facebook, I noticed multiple friends of mine were posting pictures of a mission trip that they had gone on. From what I can tell, they went to a impoverished area and built a house (or multiple houses, I couldn’t tell) for the local people while spreading the word of God (hence mission trip). This got me thinking, what exactly is the purpose of a mission trip? As the name implies, mission trips are a way for missionaries to spread the word of God. From what I can tell, this is done though showing people God’s love by helping people who otherwise can’t help themselves.
There seem to be two objectives at work: Spread the word of God and help out people in need. The utilitarian in me has issues with how mission trips accomplish this. Mission trips are costly and they affect a small number of people. Depending on where the trip is and how many people are going, trips can be very expensive to sponsor (we’re talking about thousands of dollars). Is all that money worth spending to build a house for a community of people when the same amount of money can be donated to organization that will build multiple houses and help out in more ways than a group of wealthy suburban teenagers can? Can spreading the word of god be done through other, less costly means?
I feel like my utilitarian views don’t take into account the intangibles such as the rewarding feeling of handing the keys for a house to a family who have never experienced anything beyond their cardboard shack or the comfort in knowing that a community of people have been exposed to the word of God and His love. For the people that go on these mission trips, they get exposed to things that they would normally never see in their otherwise sheltered lives.
It seems as if there are two things one has to consider when deciding if mission trips are worth it. Number one being that it is more beneficial for everyone involved if a group of people help out on a smaller scale but in a much more personalized way that establishes meaningful connections both with the missionaries and people they’re interacting with and with God. The other one is that by not spending large amounts of money on a trip to help a few people, the money is better served going to international organizations that are in better position to help out more people with the money, basically stretching the power of the money to change. The weight one places on either of these ideas seems to be the determining factor for many people. When deciding for myself if mission trips are truly worth going on, I felt as if faith was a deciding factor for me and that is something I’m currently on the fence about (more on that in a future post) so I haven’t really made a decision on where I stand yet.
Another thing that I’ve been trying to figure out is when looking at mission trips from the perspective of those being helped, isn’t it a little awkward knowing that though these people just built a house for you, at the end of the day when all is said and done, they’re going to be the ones returning to a life of comfort while you’ll be in marginally better living conditions than before? Sure, it’s better than receiving no help at all, but if they were truly committed to establishing an equality of living conditions, is there nothing more they could do? It just seems a little unfair…
As you can see, I’m still trying to decide where I stand on this. If you have any input that would bring my attention to something I may have not considered (and I most likely am not considering something) that would be greatly appreciated.