June 30 2014
“We Are Not a Poor Country”—Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions
“The numbers are incredible,” explains Brian Fikkert, coauthor of When Helping Hurts. “Literally millions of people participate in short-term mission trips each year to the tune of billions of dollars. We have a hard time even conceptually understanding what a billion is.”
The sheer scale of short-term missions (STMs) has left church and ministry leaders asking hard questions about the effectiveness of these trips. What is the long-term impact of STMs on receiving communities and participants? How can visits bless the existing work God is doing in a community?
On May 1st, Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert submitted the manuscript for Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions, a project created to assist church leaders in designing effective short-term trips—and then to guide participants in lasting learning and engagement with poverty alleviation.
As part of this upcoming project, Chalmers is creating video teaching units for short-term teams to use in pre- and post-trip learning sessions.
In May, Chalmers’ Katie Casselberry traveled with a videography team to Haiti to film the work of The 410 Bridge. The 410 Bridge is an organization that encourages Christ-centered, community-initiated development work in rural Majority World communities. The 410 Bridge then mobilizes short-term teams to support and learn about that work.
“We spent five days in a rural Haitian community, interviewing 410’s staff, local community leaders, and short-term team participants,” Casselberry explains. “It was a remarkable opportunity to capture different angles on what makes a short-term trip effective.”
One Haitian staff member shared, “I hope teams see that we have God [beside] us, and we have knowledge, we have people, we have resources…we are not a poor country.”
Reflecting on how teams can bless his community, a local leader shared, “We are one in Christ and will be together in heaven. When teams come to live and be with us, we get to see and glimpse a bit of that now.”
“What we didn’t hear from community leaders was a desire for teams to come give things away, solve problems, or execute programs,” shares Casselberry. “Yes, these communities experience acute material poverty. But they are mobilizing many of their own resources and gifts to meet those challenges, and US churches have an opportunity to come alongside them in that process.”
The scale of the STM movement provides an incredible opportunity to influence how churches think about poverty, missions, and the materially poor.
One community leader in Haiti shared his vision for the purpose of short-term trips, explaining, “We would like for [teams] to learn along with us, because we are doing the same mission and the same work.”
Helping Without Hurting in Short-Term Missions aims to equip teams to see, respect, and celebrate that mission and work, leading them to recognize Christ’s reconciling power in new ways.