Short Term Mission Trips & Vulnerability

Enjoying the conversations with new and old friends and just the opportunity of being with the forty or so individuals gathered here at Seabeck. Among other things we are conversing about the emergence and development of Missional Orders and what that might look like in a North American context.

The conference facilitators have directed our attention to Luke10:1-12 each morning encouraging us to meditatively reflect on the passage and than share our insights with another conference attender who is new to us. We then regroup and our new stranger, now new friend shares our insights with the larger group. Needless to say the reflections have been phenomenal.

One of the primary themes surfacing in the midst of these reflective times is the whole issue of vulnerability in the context of mission. It was certainly an issue for the seventy disciples Jesus sent on this short term mission trip. His description of their possible future conditions while on mission  is at the very least somewhat frightening, uncomfortable, and quite possibly painful (sheep amongst wolves). But that’s not all. With the possibility of wolves up ahead, they must also travel light; no purse, bag, or sandals…. and not even a map. Just out there — vulnerable to the wolves and the elements. Idiots! Don’t they know you just don’t do that. They haven’t even had time to plan for any worst case scenarios. Talk about being out of control and not knowing what your doing — these guys could quite possibly end up being just two, or one, or maybe none.

And this is just the natural elements, we have yet to consider other factors such as the people they are dependent on for their future survival.  You could say just another normal short term mission trip.

I can’t help but think how contrary this scenario is to our current Church context. Short term mission trips today are often well planned, well funded and most of the time, well staffed by youth and youth sponsors, with a planned side trip to a nearby resort/fun-center — maybe Disneyland. I know, everyone needs a little relaxation in order to detox from the culture and get reformatted for North America.

Can you imagine any parent in their right mind letting their children go on a short term mission trip with Jesus as the youth sponsor? I mean, let’s be real here people — not my kid. For one thing – she wouldn’t have any money for Disneyland.


4 Responses

  1. As someone who seek to live with missional integrity, but also who serves the church (in part) by facilitating short-term missions trips, your thoughts are great. We deal with this tension all the time, seeking to find a middle way. Our hope is to tap into and subversively redirect the consumerist approach to missions through intentional means. How successful are we? Not sure yet, but we have seen it work. Thank for the challenge. Wish I could have been in WA with you all.


  2. It was grand to meet you…we will all continue processing for quite some time, I’m sure! I hope to have another opportunity to visit with you and the greater Vancouver/Portland group of attendees…


  3. Jamie,

    Thanks for your comment. Because of your experience in these type of trips, I admire both your heart and voice. Your words “to tap into and subversively redirect the consumerist approach to missions through intentional means” resonates with me as a great response to many other issues as we seek to live with missional integrity.

    It would have been great to have you with us at Seabeck, WA. Your name surfaced in conversations more than once — always in a context of missional integrity.

  4. Peggy,

    Good to meet you as well. May God bless in wonderful ways both your heart, vision and ministry.


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