Mission Trips - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 06-24-2013, 01:35 PM - Thread Starter
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I am turned off by "mission trips" for some reason. Does anyone else feel this way? I know they do a lot of good overseas, etc. and the families who volunteer get to experience living in another culture...but I am not a big fan. 


I think of all the Spaniards who went to Latin America to rape and pillage while spreading their religion. Now churches still want to go there and try to convert the natives to various branches of Christianity so they can say they have the most numbers of members. You should see the big beautiful Mormon temple in the heart of San Salvador. Wouldn't that money be better spent on finding ways to get clean water to the people? Prayer and religion might give people hope, etc. but it won't give them the medicine they need for malaria. Maybe they could use some schools and food and clean water without religion. Maybe they have their own religion. Who are we to say our religion or way of life is so much better than theirs? Why should we be trying to change people?


Why not change people in our own country first? I guess churches feel that "underpriviliged" people in other countries are so desperate for help, that they are easier to convert. People in the states have more access to education and aid, and are less likely to accept free help in exchange for letting someone try to convince you to become a "Christian".


Honestly, the natives in "poor" countries can probably teach us a thing or two about "spirituality" and how to live off the land and how to be thankful to be alive. 

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#2 of 6 Old 06-24-2013, 02:48 PM
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I agree. My family is from Guatemala and I have seen the damage done. The Mayans have done a great job keeping their culture though. They still have their pagan gods and just added in the saints LOL.

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#3 of 6 Old 06-24-2013, 02:52 PM
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I do want to add, however, that it definitely depends on the group. Some folks really just go to help and the experience changes them forever. I do admire those who walk the walk rather than just talk the talk. I have nothing against the Mormon church and admire their dedication to what they believe. Whenever they come to my house they are welcome in and given something to drink or eat if they want. :-)

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#4 of 6 Old 06-24-2013, 06:07 PM
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I lived in northern Uganda for a while with my kids - for research. There are A LOT of Westerners living in northern Uganda (NGOs, but largely missionaries). Whenever I go, it seems that half of my flight's passengers are going on a missionary trip. When we were living there, the only other Western kids my kids' age, were the missionary kids. So we got to know some of them really well. These are families who are living there with different purposes. It was always the men doing the actual missionary work, the wives were at home, homeschooling and cooking.


One husband is a minister and was building a church, while temporarily holding church in a big tent that looks likes a circus tent. His goal was to develop a kind of ministry school in the north. They brought an entire shipping container of their American lives and built an American home - it was sooooo bizarre to walk in and see lazy boy chairs and wallpaper and wallpaper borders and paper towels and classic round dining table and chairs. They kept their house airtight and air conditioned. It was like walking into suburban America... so bizarre. (You can get the most beautfiul handmade mohagony furniture there for dirt cheap). The poor wife seemed miserable and it seemed to me like she felt she was sacrificing herself to be there. 


Two other husbands have since moved up to S Sudan with their families - they had spent 2 years in N Ug waiting for their S Sudan home to be built. They are a 'team' from the same church. They spent those 2 years developing a plan for how best they can help the local people where they are moving to. Last I heard they were going to help them with agriculture, somehow. They were all lovely people and very gentle with their religion and shared a lot with their local neighbours and learned the language and food. 


The 4th family we got to know were the most extreme. The husband was there to preach and convert. When we first arrived he took us to get a hotel and the woman at the desk had typhoid. He put his hand on her head and made some very dramatic and elaborate preach about exocising the demons from her and when he was done, he told her she was cured. She went along with it but later kind of smiled (not believing) when we asked her if he had cured her. He went around town preaching and they held a Sunday service where he preached more. They had regular mission teams come to help him - some for a couple of weeks, some for longer. These missions included 15-20 people, usually college students. He would send them out throughout the north where they would go and preach and convert. I don't really understand how this worked because none of the college kids spoke the local language, obviously. But this guy kept me with his wife so I didn't get to ask too many questions. She complained about the local food and people and they did not like to go into town or mix with local people. We once had some of my friends' kids for a sleepover (locals) and they flipped when we told them.


Then there were the packs and packs of other mission trippers. There were so many American college kids roaming the streets and you hear 'Jesus' and 'the Lord' non-stop coming from their mouths. It's exhausting. It's ridiculous. Often locals use the missionaries as much as they can for whatever incentives they offer - food, clothing, healthcare, etc. I see on indiegogo.com so many people raising funds to get them sent over on missions. So little of their money is actually put into the local economy. So few of them treat the local people as if they are intelligent adults worthy of respect. These college kids coming over and thinking they are going help these poor misguided African folk. Drives me nuts.


There is a devastating effect to all of this.  Here's a big one: http://www.godlovesuganda.com/film/  And another one: http://callmekuchu.com/


A few others not raised so much in those films: Dependency, distrust of local ways and beliefs (which are practical and relevant to THEIR needs and experiences and land), trust in imported ideas and ways (which often do not work in their context), and paternalizing an entire population, not to mention creating a sense of moral superiority in these college kids who are actually doing nothing more than getting their kicks from someone else's misery. Ok, that's a little harsh, but that's my general sentiment. 


All that being said, I do believe there are missionaries who do work with local people as equals with dignity and who become part of the community and who do offer them whatever they can to help and to give hope and friendship without expecting glamour and a sense of moral fulfillment in return. These are people who build lasting relationships with the people in their communities - they don't just go and take pictures of themselves with cute little African babies and then leave forever. The good ones don't preach, but they care and love and support and listen. They do what they can and don't presume they know best. 


Ok, rant over. This is a hot topic for mer :)

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#5 of 6 Old 06-24-2013, 06:32 PM
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I had a high school Baptist mission group from Texas visit the village I lived in as a Peace Corps volunteer one day. It was ludicrous because this area was so thoroughly evangelical Christian, they really should have been sending missionaries to the US! There were Anglican, "full gospel" (like Baptists), Jehovah's Witness, Catholic, and Methodist churches in this area, and everyone went to one of them. It was so silly watching these kids try to "save" these villagers. The kids there were like, Well, they did bring soccer balls, so sure, what the heck, save away'
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#6 of 6 Old 06-29-2013, 01:50 PM
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I am very amused by this thread.  Mainly because as a teen and college student I did multiple mission trips.  Almost all of them were in the US, and we always did a lot more work than anything else, helped clean up, paint, etc a local church or parsonage, Cleaned up an abandoned lot to to prep for a community garden, ran a VBS or day program for neighborhood kids.  By the time I finished my college degree, I knew how to paint, replace sheetrock, re-roof a building, and organize high school & college boys to stay on task, wallpaper, and lay tile.  The foreign countries I went to were always medical mission trips where I was vaccinating kids or translating for physicians, once again, more work than anything else.  I guess it depends on where you go and what you are doing.

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