I’ve been asked often, “Why take a mission trip half-way around the world? Isn’t it more efficient to just send money to the poor?”
Great question. Our team to Uganda took 23 people, and 16 of them were High School students. They were led by our amazing Youth and Family Ministries staff of Pastors Chris and Reuben, along with a number of other adults and college students. Yes, we traveled to Kampala, Uganda to serve the people there. With Youth For Christ Uganda staff, our team did a construction project for a school building, and visited other schools where the kids giggled at the clumsy Americans as they sang and danced. They spent time engaging and playing with the school kids. So why do this?
First, we go to help Ugandans. What we do really does help them in a tangible way. For example, on this trip some of us visited several schools, health clinics, agricultural projects, wells, and reforestation projects that our church has funded over the last ten years in Piswa, in the high mountains of Uganda near Kamchorwa.
The water still flows clear, and the trees grow tall. A nurse is available for crisis pregnancies and health care in a village hours from any hospital. I say this humbly–we are simply sharing a portion of the blessings we have received from God. Still, Ugandans pick the projects, and they benefit from the long-term results.
Secondly, we go to encourage Ugandans. It is really about relationships. Christians around the world are under incredibly great pressure and attacks. To know they are not forgotten, and to pray with and worship alongside our brothers and sisters from far away strengthens both their faith and ours. We all need the reminder that we are not alone in this life. Relationships make humans both valuable and healthy.
Finally, we take our teams so that each of us will grow and change. In America, our affluence often keeps us from having to deal with poverty or trusting God fully. We use VISA and MASTERCARD to solve our problems. Life (at least externally) is clean and well-washed. We worry about things which are not–in the true scope of life–all that important. In third world countries, we see people who have almost nothing. They simply must trust God. We are forced out of our comfort zone. Our eyes are opened to the real state of others in the world, and to our pseudo-Disney Land existence in the West. We hang with Christians who can teach us much about spiritual life and faith. We learn to see the world more correctly. And we learn to see God more correctly. This is the God who, “so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”After all, God’s heaven is defined in part as an international celebration.
Listening to our young men and women share about the relationships they have built with the Ugandans and the lessons they have learned as we debrief each night reminds me that this trip is transformational. We are all growing like strong tall trees. Our team is gaining a healthy world view. And we are being changed for the good, by God’s touch. It is a win-win situation. This is why we go on short-term missions.