25 July 2008

Short-Term Trips...

It’s easy for me to be critical about short-term teams… I have a bad habit of calculating the total cost of their trip based on where they flew from, where they stayed and where they ate… “Oh, there goes that $80,000 team that did the $200 paint job!”

I realize that there are 2 sides to the coin… it is important to speak up to encourage people who are making mistakes…like when a team of teenage girls walks around Uganda wearing tight and very short shorts which is the equivalent to a group of teenage girls walking around a construction sight in the US bare-chested and they wonder why every Ugandan male with a pulse is staring, yelling, heckling and inappropriately approaching them… and there are other times when I need to bite my tongue, realize everyone makes mistakes and move on…

I guess I could also stand at the airport and hand out… Serving with Eyes Wide Open by David A. Livermore… to every white person entering the country…

But for now I am going to bite my tongue and write about a few short-term teams that I believe have… in my humble opinion… done it right… or left an impression on me…

First up is a team from SoCal made up of a family with 2 college age daughters, their 5 friends and a younger sister…

They spent 7 weeks in Uganda with 4 different ministries… asking questions, building relationships, trying to understand the culture and doing whatever they were asked to do to help… before the came the dad even met us in Florida and asked questions along the line of “how can we be effective without being culturally inappropriate?”

But here is what impressed and encouraged me the most… they arranged an evening at our home… weeks in advance not an “oh, we have an extra night with nothing to do”… and they asked us 2 hours of questions about life on the mission field, our observations about Uganda, what we are trying to do…

It was nice… they asked great questions… and I got the impression they wanted to know we had to say… whether we are experts or not…

I notice that some of the old-timers around here… missionaries that have been around 10+ years… they don’t spend much or any time with short term teams… some even refuse to let them come to their sights… I kind of get it… its hard watching team after team come to your place of work and offend the Ugandans… while the Ugandans thank them profusely because that is the culturally appropriate response to any visitor who comes… then they leave and you are left as the white reminder of the people who hurt them…

I wonder how many of them would still be inviting teams if the teams would stop, ask questions, learn about the culture and let the missionary teach them a little about their country…

Always time to wonder… but for now I’ll just remember that one short-term team made my day or evening in just 2 hours…

2 comments:

Darren T. Rusco said...

I can only bite my tongue for so long when you write about short term trips. I can see the value for both sides, but I think Americans go for wrong motives - so I'm like you.

This is one of those areas in the church where pragmatism wins out. We declare short term trips to be good because they WORK, for our purposes, not because the trip was RIGHT for Uganda's purposes or FAITHFUL for God's purposes.

So it is good to see an example of a team who did things RIGHT and FAITHFUL.

Teenietinyt said...

I AGREE WHOLE-HEARTEDLY...but at the same time it is hard to know this in your head and be SURROUNDED by people who could benefit and grow so much by a trip where GOD could interact with them in EVERY way. I wish it was easy to adjust the placement of people's hearts. Of course the only one I have control over is my own: and what a GOD-point that is.