Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Point of Missions is to Edify Myself

Image found here.
Just a few days ago, I watched a documentary by an amateur filmmaker who wanted to tell the story of some orphan homes in Haiti. The filmmaker went about achieving this by following a 4 day “mission trip” conducted by a team of adults (about eight Americans) who went to Haiti to tour seven different homes where up to 12 orphans live with their “parents”.

According to the film, there are around 800,000 orphans in Haiti. That number astounds me. I knew they were poverty stricken and there were some orphans in Haiti, sure. But 800,000? That’s one orphan for every family in San Antonio!

These numbers were not the most shocking thing about the documentary, though. Despite the fact that the missions team basically went on tour of seven orphan homes rather than feed (spiritually or physically) some of the other 799,856 orphans in Haiti or the fact that they brought the orphans silly little gifts from America when the orphans they were visiting already had more stuff than they need. I’ll ignore those points for now. What was most shocking was when one of the team members said (and this is not a direct quote but only a few words off):

“The point of missions is to realize how blessed you are by seeing how little everyone else has.”

Woah. Hold up. That’s the point of missions?

And this statement is coming from a fifty-something-year-old woman. She should know better, right?


This was apparently her second trip to Haiti on this team. She was doing the exact same thing she did last year on her “mission trip”: going around the seven orphan homes to sing songs, give gifts, and craft crafts.

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

First of all, these orphans have a home. They have clothes. They have food. They have an adopted family. They also hear the Gospel on a daily basis. Daily. Did you catch that? They are already cared for, fed, and taught the Good News of Christ on a day to day basis.

Secondly, even if these orphans didn’t know Christ and the team was truly sharing something new to those children, what would the point of the mission be? Would it still be to “see how blessed you are”?

I hope I’m not alone when I state that:

“The point of missions is to bring the truth of the Gospel of Christ to people who have never experienced God’s love and forgiveness through the Holy Spirit.”

Where is the “I” in that statement? Sure, I am doing the action, but it’s not about me. It’s about the Good News. It’s about Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit.

Not me.

I can hear the other side now…

“Maybe that’s all those people can do! Maybe they really did make a difference in those kid’s lives! You don’t know what eternal impact those people made on those 144 orphans in Haiti!”

The people who say these things defend the woman (and the rest of the team) because they too have been on those types of missions. You know, the "tour of poor people" mission trip, or "the spiritual retreat" mission trip.

If the point of missions is to see how blessed I am in comparison to others, all I need to do to achieve that is turn on the TV and listen to stories of the wars going on in Syria or the protests in the Ukraine. All I need to do is look up some images of malnourished children in India or Africa. All I need to do is go to the “poor side” of my town and examine the small houses, children running the streets without supervision or proper clothes, and maybe talk to a few of the locals in that area.

I don’t need to take a four day tour of seven orphan homes in Haiti where the kids already know about Jesus.

If the point of missions is the share God’s story with others and pray for their salvation, then yes. Going to Haiti and serving some of the other 799,856 orphans might become necessary in accomplishing this goal. The location might be the same, but the mindset and mission are both totally different.

For that lady, she thought she was doing a great service to those children. What she was really doing was edifying herself; raising support from others in order to go on a 4 day spiritual retreat with God. Instead of focusing on the 799,856 orphans in Haiti without regular food, shelter, love, or a knowledge of Christ, she was doing crafts with the 144 who already know God.

What a waste of 4 perfectly good days.

What do you think? Can you do both? Can you realize how blessed you are and go on mission with the goal of reaching the unreached?
If you can only do one, which one should take priority? 

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