Missions or just glorified tourism?

By Scott Linscott

Wouldn’t it be better to just send them the money?

Americans think that money is the answer to everything. Human touch and relationship has little value. We are totally out to lunch on that one.

“For God so loved the world he sent everybody a million dollars so they could buy whatever they wanted and needed.” At least, that’s how we Americans think the gospel should read.

But despite our desire to have no one ever infringe upon our three-foot-personal- space bubbles, the Bible is a book of relationships; relationship with God and relationship with each other.

But I do understand where the question comes from. Lots of American churches promote both mission and poverty tourism. I’m not interested in that at all. If there is no lasting partnership involved, I’ll pass.

But, still the question remains … wouldn’t it be better to send $30,000 rather than take a team of 18 people? Simply, no.

Why not? First, it’s never going to happen. If I asked you to send me money to forward to Nicaragua, how many of you would do it? Very few. I’ve tried it numerous times. I think my most successful fundraiser, without me going and serving directly, was around $1200.

Second, writing checks

meets immediate needs but does nothing to build lasting relationship. Relationship encourages, helps, prays for and carries each other’s burdens.

Third, partnerships are lasting. Thirty children in Oratorio, Guatemala now have relationships with monthly sponsors as a result of our April 2016 trip. That’s $11,520 per year in support of children, not including special gifts for birthdays and Christmas. It also does not include any of the extra that some sponsors send monthly or quarterly for family needs. But treasured most by the children is the letters they get from real people. None of that would be happening had we not travelled to Guatemala and formed partnerships.

So, no, it would not be better to “just send the money” even if it were feasible.

Lastly, let’s not forget what that $30,000 in support of developing lasting relationship also yields. A lodging house miles away from tourist destinations will have a week with up to 24 guests when we visit. That’s an influx of $15,000 or so that employs cleaning staff, guards, property maintenance, cooks, and serving staff. Local merchants see income from food purchases and work project supplies. Even the Latin American airline we are using benefits to the tune of almost $12,000 paying pilots, flight crews, mechanics, custodial, gate agents … Do we even need to talk about how important jobs are in depressed economies?

We are purchasing 130 two-year water filters, made there in Guatemala, by Guatemalan workers for another $4500, to deliver to families in third-world poverty. How important is clean drinking water?

Lasting relationships with these people we’ve come to love are the result of our trips. A real, lasting, partnership with a school of 300 children is now in place. Thirty children now have educational support, nutrition and healthcare support. Thirty families are now witnessing strange love and provision for their children and hearing it is all due to amazing love of God.

So, no, it would not be better to “just send the money” even if it were feasible.

Are we making a real and lasting difference or is it just another bunch of Americans engaging in hit-and-run missions/poverty tourism?

Missions tourism excitedly asks, “hey, where are we going next year?” True mission asks, “how can we serve and encourage our partners in the gospel next year?”

It’s not about a trip. It’s about a mission. By their fruit you will know.

#missiontrip #missions #povertytourism #missionstourism #adventure #church #travel @fbcwestbrook


1 thought on “Missions or just glorified tourism?

  1. Thanks for this excellent post. I have wondered about this myself, but your economic point is a good one. Better to give a struggling country money via their own jobs, than to hand it out as freebies. It preserves their dignity, which in the end is essential. Charity that doesn’t preserve dignity often backfires. Also, massive influxes of cash to a place a thousand miles away with little oversight is just asking for an embezzlement scandal, with one person in the developing world pocketing it at the expense of all the rest. 😥

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