Monday, July 14, 2014

More Post Mission Thoughts

Some more thoughts, having to do with my attitude towards short term missions. STMs or as we call in our church STAMP trips have been criticized a lot, and for good reason. Most such trips do for people what they could or should do for themselves, thereby creating dependency and eventually destruction of industries which could prosper without such intervention. Donating food, clothes money, etc have a place- but they cannot make up the whole mission.

HART in my view has been more successful than most other trips. Some of the reasons, I think, as these:

1. Each STAMP trip revolves around supporting an anchor missionary stationed long-term. In this case the anchor missionary is Father Roosevelt who is local and invested long-term. There is great trust between him and his people. Often a foreign long-term missionary lacks this trust, but does carry a lot of trust from his church or support teams back home. The inverse in true in cases where the anchor missionary is a local leader. In HART's case both these problems are non-existent. Father Roosevelt is not supported for his daily living by the Detroit churches, he is invested in his people and he carries enormous trust in Detroit. Each time he visits there is great love and affection, and many STAMP trips have over several years seen his work for themselves and come away impressed.

2. In HART's case there are 2 'medium-term' missionaries, one of whom is committed enough to go to Haiti at least once each quarter. He also spearheads the construction effort for the church HART is building in Haiti. The accountability is stronger with these missionaries' efforts. But such medium-term missions arise out of personal desire and investment into the people. They have found their own personal missions- in the case of one, supporting orphans with medical care and other resources. The bond between the local mission and the overseas church becomes stronger with this quarterly contact.

3. STAMP missionaries are committed to go each year to the same country. In our church each year different STAMP missions target different countries. I remember a STAMP trip to India a couple of years ago, and another one a few years previously, but the frequency of contact and constant investment isn't there. In HART's case there are a few countries they are invested in- Haiti, Uganda, Cameroon, and some others- but this list is limited, and the team is committed to travel to these places each year. The number of people on each team is limited to 25 people but the wait-list is 25 people-strong.

4. Medical care is sorely needed in this region- this does not necessarily create dependency. Without this medical care the people simply will not get any other such care. Best of all, the missionaries make it clear they they are there because they love Jesus. The youngsters who go with the team live in spartan facilities with 25 people to 3 restrooms, having 2 meals a day, supplemented with energy bars they bring with them. Eventually though I think HART would benefit from having a Haitian missionary doctor stationed long term and supported by the church financially.

5. HART is made up of people from 3 different parishes. This is great, and creates the best form of accountability. Also it provides critical mass for the number of people who could be a part of such trips.

6. The 'No Negativity' clause works wonders. Mission trips are often compromised by hurt feelings, sarcasm and other such issues. Most of the time HART missionaries were kind- I can vouch for this, as I myself messed up on several occasions- particularly my lack of care in keeping my sickness to myself- but people were forgiving.

7. Often having heart for missions means saying No to a trip. In this case Tom let me know that his wife did not come because she felt it would be good for some others to be a part of the trip. A true missionary is intentional this way.

I have not yet been on a college church mission trip. But I sometimes wonder if our mission trips could learn from this one. We usually have an anchor missionary who is financial supported by the church and other churches, but local missionaries who partner with them (if they exist) are not heard of at all. In our church we pray for the missionaries we support but not local partners. Such partners also do not come to our church to interact with us. The lack of communication, except in the form of periodic emails requesting prayer and detailing small events, makes for an impoverished form of partnership. Considering that our missionaries are supported financially (each family getting $4000-$5000 a month), this is strange.

We pride ourselves on being a sending church- the fact that half of our annual budget of $6 M goes into missions speaks for itself. Besides this the STAMP teams support themselves, and the long term missionaries raise funds from among the congregation as well as other congregations, which is not a part of the $3 M missions budget. It is likely much higher than the 3 HART parishes put together. We are present in several countries- I wonder if we are spreading ourselves too thin in this way. Alma and I support 2 missionary families in India financially, but the inadequate communication and partnership is not a good thing. There is a lack of clarity as to their work, and there is typically no mention of local ministry partners, no requests for prayer for such people, no introduction of such people to the team in the US.

Medical missions in my view are an excellent way to minister to people. I do not see a focused effort to build such teams in our church. A lot of point to ponder.

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