By Shane Bennett
If you’ve read more than two of my columns, you know I have totally drunk the short-term missions Kool-Aid. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger advocate. In fact, I’m dying to invite you to come on a short-term to Sicily with me! But just for fun, this month we’re going to look at why you might not want to go overseas—why instead, you may want to do something just as cool but that’s within a stone’s throw (or a day’s drive) of your house.
So here are six reasons why you and your church should not plan an amazing trip to Faroffistan this summer, but rather do something equally strategic and helpful nearby. [Click to tweet this]
Because you live here!
I for one have stood on the rooftop of my short-term housing in Faroffistan and wistfully watched planes fly away, whispering in the darkness of my own heart, “Someday soon I will be on one of you!” Being more spiritual than me, you probably have felt another kind of sadness nearing the end of a short-term assignment: something like regret that you couldn’t stay longer, a sense of tearing as new found relationships come to an end, a wish that you could complete or at least continue the work your team began.
Well, good news: If you do a short-term trip near where you live, you live near there! (Take whatever time you need to process that logic, then read on!) You can go back next month or next weekend. You can have your new friends over for a barbecue. No plane ticket. No passport or shots. Just gas money equivalent to the change you can scrounge from under the couch cushions.
Everyone is “here” now.
For many of us, the key value of dropping into a foreign culture can be pretty much accomplished within driving range, sometimes walking range, of our house. If you arrange your efforts to focus on people different from you and to engage them in conversation, you’ll get at least a little bit of cultural disorientation (and connection).
Furthermore, if you focus well, and perhaps drive a little farther, you can serve unreached people. There may be communities near you representing whole peoples who’ve largely been overlooked in our sharing of the kingdom of God.
We need to play the home games, too.
If you’re into missions, you may have heard this, “I don’t know about going all the way to Faroffistan. We have plenty of needs right here and the Bible says to bloom where you’re planted.” Well, we do and it doesn’t, but there is a point here. Steve Hawthorne said that being exclusively concerned about overseas stuff is like a team who only plays “away” games. It’s silly. God has placed us where we are and we do have a certain stewardship for our place. It would do us well to look around a bit and ask God what he’s up to here.
You have kids! (Well, some of you do.)
And you’re telling me you’re going to take them overseas? Let them get groped by TSA along the way? Expose them to Zika? Probably lose them in a crowded train station in Calcutta? (Yes, I am reading your mom’s email!) I’m all for taking kids overseas, but I figure the effort required to shift the family is large enough to make a one-year stay the minimum for most families. And cross-cultural exposure is so important that if you don’t already live someplace like San Francisco or Amsterdam, you may need to make some special efforts to get your munchkins immersed among people different from them. If you don’t want to give Mum a coronary, doing that domestically may be a good start.
Lower cost means more workers.
OK, work this out to its logical extreme and the cheapest thing to do is stay on the couch! I get that. But making a cross-cultural experience more accessible to more people is a worthwhile idea. For good reasons or bad, some of our friends cannot imagine finding $2500 to spend a week in Faroffistan. But they might pony up US$250 for a long weekend of immersion in a nearby city. And sometimes it only takes three or four days of hugs and hummus to change minds and knit hearts to newcomers. [Click to tweet this]
Action beats whining … every time.
While I was writing this column, President Trump was signing a new executive order limiting refugee admittance and temporarily banning travel to the US from several countries. We may think the order is ill-advised and will do little to increase the security of Americans, but this much also seems true: We shouldn’t complain if we’re not willing to act. I feel a little foolish ranting and raving about my country not letting in refugees while I myself fail to drive across town for tea with some who beat the ban. This spring break or summer could be a really good time to go hang out with refugees.
What have you done to connect with unreached peoples domestically? If you were going to take a small group from your church to reach out to refugees nearby you, what would you do? I’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.
» Please take a moment to share them with us below or through Facebook.
If this kind of experience seems like a good idea for your church, but you don’t know where to start, let’s chat. A good bud and I are once again dreaming and scheming about effective, high-caliber, domestic, unreached-focused, short-term trips. And, well … we need some guinea pigs!
» Email Shane.