What can I say? The book Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton resonates with some of my deep, deep fears that I have been unable or more correctly unwilling to admit. Is what we do in short-term missions for us or for those we go to serve? Are our local service events really helpful in the long run, or are we simply perpetuating dependency and laziness? Are there better ways to serve people than by simply giving to their immediate need/want or are there ways to facilitate their own abilities and their self-worth, not just add merit badges to our long string of good deeds?
When mission trips are really understood and promoted as “relationship building” and “learning opportunities” than we are being honest, but as leaders of Short-Term Missions we know that if there was not a project to work on, then we would not get half of the people. But in many situations, the learning does come, and people grow into a more mature understanding of what takes place on these mission trips. When trips are seen as mutually encouraging and mutually enriching then we have come a long way, but when we paint a church and the members of that church sit and watch, something is wrong!!!!
Lupton’s “Oath for Compassionate Service” is that to which I want to ascribe and my hope is that others will also join in so that we can truly make a difference in this world:
* Never do for the poor what they have (or could have) the capacity to do for themselves. * Limit one-way giving to emergency situations. * Strive to empower the poor through employment, lending, and investing, using grants sparingly to reinforce achievements. * Subordinate self-interests to the needs of those being served. * Listen closely to those you seek to help, especially to what is not being said-unspoken feelings may contain essential clues to effective service. * Above all, do no harm.