Summer is coming up, and you know what that means: mission trip season!
Are you contemplating a trip overseas, perhaps to a developing country?
Well, before you apply for that visa, here are a few things to consider:
Is your mission trip planning to build a school?
What kind of school system does that particular country have? What are some of the barriers to getting education? Where do you want to build your school? Are there any schools nearby? What will make your school different? Is there an option to put resources into the schools that already exist?
Are you planning a general building/renovating project?
What kinds of assistance are you bringing to this town/village? What kinds of resources does the community already have? What kinds of resources will you bring with you? Are they sustainable? What will happen to this community when you leave? Will they have access to the same resources? Will you work alongside the community, or do the work for them? Which will allow the community to have ownership?
How will you dress?
Something that always strikes me when I’m overseas with other Americans is the mentality that because they’re in a developing country, they can wear ratty clothes. What kind of clothing are you bringing along? You’re concerned about looking too flashy, particularly if you are going to be in a poor, rural area. However, think about your appearance. Would you wear the clothing you brought to a party or other social event in the U.S.? Why not? Think about the people you are interacting with. What is it about them that does not warrant taking some time on your appearance?
What images are you capturing?
What would happen if a more comprehensive portrait was painted? What if you showed footage of people living their daily lives in the MIDST of suffering? Why do advocacy organizations insist on only showing miserable people in developing countries, as if they do not experience any other emotion? Perhaps they’re worried that showing people who occasionally experience joy will hurt their bottom line? That people will be less likely to open their wallets? That people are only motivated by pity (sometimes confused with compassion) to take action?
It is imperative that we recognize the people we are seeking to help as human beings who are capable of the same complex emotions as us. When we attempt to give assistance out of pity or guilt, we run the risk of failing to recognize the humanity in those we serve. We trudge through and determine that we are the answer to their issues, that we are the ones most capable of telling their stories, that we alone will end their suffering.