My husband and I were invited to be on a mission’s team to the Caribbean. I really wanted to go, so did my husband. The team planned to paint an orphanage, build playground equipment and minister to the children. My husband has worked with children for more than 30 years. This was right up his alley.
Unfortunately, for both of us to go, we needed $4,000. We didn’t have time to save that much money. One of us could have gone. The discussion about which one ended with an unusual perspective about missions trips.
I wanted to go so I could write about the trip. Rod wanted to paint and minister to the children. His intent was nobler than mine. I encouraged him to go. He didn’t want to go without me. Neither one of us was happy that only one of us could go.
As I pondered our dilemma something occurred to me. If we had the money to spare, wouldn’t it benefit the orphanage more if we simply stayed home and gave them the money? Why spend $4,000 to fly to the Caribbean and paint a building. With that kind of money, the orphanage could hire a local laborer to paint. They would have money left over for other needs and someone would have a paying job.
Twenty people went on the mission trip without us, which means $40,000 was spent on travel to accomplish a few thousand dollars worth of work. Where is the wisdom in that? The orphanage spends $1,000 a month on food. If the part-time missionaries had stayed home and sent the money instead, the children would have food for years. Instead, they have a painted building and a playground.
If I’m starting to sound cynical, forgive me. Maybe I came to this conclusion to feel better about not going. But when you calculate the numbers it is what it is. I realize I’ve cast a bad light on people striving to do a good work even though that is not my intent. Several of the people who went on the trip are friends, and I do not think ill of them for going. I’ll never diminish their effort to serve God by telling them what I have just pointed out to you. If we had the money, my husband and I would have spent a week in the Caribbean with them.
My friends returned from the mission trip transformed. They choked back tears and could barely talk as they described the poverty they witnessed. Their zeal to help suffering humanity had flamed into a bonfire. All of them are determined to return next year and do more for the orphans. I applaud them. But all things considered, I think church missions trips help the part-time missionaries much more than the people they seek to assist.