In the last two blogs I wrote about “American-Centric” I talked about being aware of our tendency to see the world only through our culture and how we can counter that by opening the doors to new experiences, cultures, and opinions.
Mission trips internationally can be tricky at times, trying to figure out what is appropriate. So here are a few questions that I think are essential for you to ask yourself before planning a trip or project overseas, to make sure your not being American-centric!
- Who initiated the project? Often, who initiated the project is the greatest predictor of how successful it will be. Why? Because people on the ground have the most accurate understanding of the real needs in a community. To often, people come in with ideas and projects that just will not work (or are impossible or inappropriate to the culture). Who is the avenue? This will also determine the success and effectiveness of the mission. Who will be doing it? Is it in the community? Most importantly, does it involve people from within the local church and community? If not, it probably will not have the support or backing to continue after you leave.
- What is appropriate culturally? I heard of a project recently that wanted to build a house for a Pastor, which is a great idea. However, they build the bathroom inside the house. And in this specific culture, bathrooms should never be in the house. The bathroom was never used. Or you may be in an area where there are limits on what men and womena can and cant do.
- 3. When are you doing it? Timing is everything. Is it a good time to do the project? If people are not ready to do it, and have not shown passion and initiative to be apart of it, its not time yet.
- Where will the project be in ten years? this will force you to evaluate the goals and success of the project or mission. You are not just done when you leave, there are left behind effects of what you do. Obviously a lot is unknown, but try to think what the implications of the project are. Were will this mission or project be in ten years? Thinking long-term is the best way to stay focused on what’s important and make the projects sustainable. To what end result is it leading to? Not only do you need to know the goal, but what will the project lead to in 10 years? Many people don’t think about the long-term effects of a project. Is it sustainable?
- Why are you doing it? What are your intentions? Are you trying to make yourselves better known or feel more accomplished? Or are you humbly wanting to serve people who need to know Gods love? Is it to share Gods love, or to get put on a resume? is the Gospel? Are you demonstrating the gospel in your action? What I mean is are you demonstrating your own brokenness and pointing people to Christ. Or are you demonstrating your power and wealth and pointing to yourself?
- How will you implement? Through the church, your team, local volunteers? Who will be doing the project? If its only your team, maybe you should re-consider involving locals. Chances are, they will take a lot more ownership in the project long-term.
The point of this is to share Christ to the fullest, not diluting our message with our own biases and cultural values. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul said, “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but on Gods power. “
At the end of the day, we must take the message of Christ to the nations. Nothing more, nothing less.