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Archive for the category “misguided”

Award Winning Book

Fun summer reading. “Monkeys In My Coconut Tree” by Ed Thompson, is a compilation of fun, easy-to-read stories of fun, family, and faith. It was a Reader’s Favorite 2016 Silver Medal Winner. So come on, check it out. Read some of the reviews and download your copy by clicking HERE. (Also available at Amazon.com, iTunes and others.)

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Short Term Mission Sanity

Summer is over which mercifully means, the end of family and friends asking for money so they can go on a paid vacation — I mean, short-term mission trip.

Ok, there are short-term mission trips that are impactful and meaningful. But come on. I’ve seen the itineraries, looked at the pictures and videos, and listened to the stories reported back in church. Everyone had a great time, returned with killer tans, enjoyed trying new foods, felt bad about how other people are living, were glad they helped (with their project), and oh yeah, got to share a testimony or two.

Can you imagine if the short term mission trip organizers were to ask those they were going to serve, “What would help you more, a group of well meaning North Americans coming to your place to work for a week…or the cash equivalent?”

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I love short term missions

It is difficult to find a week long short term mission trip overseas for less than $1,200 per person with most costing upwards of $3,000 (which enables the trip organizers to go for “free”). Then, when you consider most short-term mission trips have a dozen or so travelers, the money spent on one weeklong short-term mission trip is more than most whom they are going to serve will earn in 10 years.

This past year I received roughly a dozen please-help-pay-for-my-short-term-mission-trip-and-or-vacation letters. The least expensive was $1,850 for one week and the most expensive was over $8,000 for the entire summer abroad. In my mind I’m saying, “Hey, I like exotic vacations too, but why are you asking me to pay for yours?” But of course, I bite my tongue, try to think positively, and sometimes even write a check. But I confess, in most of those circumstances when I write a check, I am not a joyful giver.

There is certainly a place for short-term mission trips. Medical missions will always be needed. Disaster relief and projects that need specialization are powerful. But should we really be sending a bunch of North Americans to run vacation Bible schools and music camps? I’ve talked to national pastors who watch well meaning North Americans build or fix up a church building while capable people in their congregations are desperate for that very work. “It’s the only way we can get it done,” they lament. I know of several churches whose single largest annual mission budget item is to send a group of their families to a lovely Caribbean island for a week or two to “help” with the local vacation Bible schools. The matching t-shirts are cute, too.

It’s time for some short term mission sanity. Can we really claim our short term mission trips are resulting in “making disciples of all nations?” Can we really “teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” in our seven day trip less two days of travel? Can it happen? Sure. But if all you have is a few days, it’s a lot easier to help fix a roof or hand out food and clothing to those in need. Disciplemaking takes time…and a relationship.

Short term “mercy” trips to help meet physical needs are just fine. But call them what they are: mercy mission trips to do good deeds for our fellow man while helping our travelers see how good they’ve got it living in North America. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s also be honest and admit that few short term mission trips accomplish much in the way of fulfilling the Great Commission. For that, you need to empower “national missionaries:” men and women who love the Lord, already live there, understand their cultures, and see the spiritual need in others. They are the ones establishing relationships and doing the hard work of making disciples. They are the ones helping others in their communities discover the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Every time I receive one of those well meaning short term mission trip letters asking me to help cover the costs of their exotic vacation, I think of the thousands of national missionaries who are already there not only meeting physical needs but more importantly, making disciples. The cost to do that? $5 per month per national missionary (see FiveDollarMission.com).

If my math is right, for the cost of one $1,200 short term mission trip traveler, on-the-job Bible training, resources, and encouragement could be provided for 20 national missionaries focused on making disciples…all year long.

But of course, I could use a paid vacation.

The Good Samaritan Strikes Again

missed bus

So here’s the story.  I was driving to work and noticed a big city bus pulling away from a bus stop while a middle-aged lady with a large bag in her hand ran frantically behind trying to get the bus to stop.  The lady was obviously upset and I couldn’t help but feel mildly irritated that the bus driver so callously drove away.

I pulled off to the side of the road and as non-creepily as possible, told her I’d help her catch her bus by driving her to the next stop.  She was a bit wary of course, but then seemed relieved as she got into my pickup truck. “Let’s go catch your bus,” I said with a macho flair, quite pleased with myself and my Good Samaritan intentions.

Stomping on the accelerator, we took off with a jolt for the next bus stop.  Ignoring most traffic laws we darted between cars and other obstacles and arrived at the bus stop just as the big bus was slowing to a stop.  My passenger gave me a grateful smile.  Then suddenly, the bus picked up speed and took off down the road.  All I could assume was that the bus driver hit the gas after determining there was no one to drop off and no one waiting to be picked up.

My attitude changed from mild irritation to slightly miffed.  “What’s with this bus driver?” I said to my anxious passenger as I once again stomped on the gas.  Her eyes widened as we lurched forward.

In moments, we had closed the gap until I was directly behind the bus. To get the bus drivers attention, I began honking my horn and flashing my lights like an emergency EMT ambulance.  Inexplicably, this caused the bus to actually pick up speed.  I upgrade my “slightly miffed” to a full “miff” and angrily stomped on the gas.

A tiny break in traffic enabled me to cut off a little wimpy “Mr. Bean” French car and I pulled up beside the bus so that my passenger and I could yell at the bus driver through closed windows.  As we yelled and flailed our arms, I couldn’t help but notice that for some reason, the lady bus driver appeared frightened out of her mind.

Rather than slow down, however, the lady bus driver hit the gas and barreled ahead. I quickly upgraded my full miff to “extremely miffed” and said, “There’s no way that bus is going to arrive at the next stop before us.” I abandoned all traffic laws and tore down the road in search of the next bus stop.  My wide eyed passenger let out a small gasp and clutched the dashboard.

We arrived a full 15 seconds before the bus and screeched to a halt in front of a handful of startled passengers in waiting.  With surprising agility, my passenger bailed out of my pickup truck almost before I came to a complete stop.  Her eyes were about the same size as my steering wheel as she stood there glaring at me, softly hyperventilating.

As I slowly drove off while my passenger continued to glare at me, I realized that in all her relief and excitement to reach the bus stop,  words had simply failed her regarding saying, “thank you.”   But of course, we Good Samaritans aren’t looking for such adulations.  We’re just glad to help.

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