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Mission Trips – the Other Side of the Mat

You’ve likely heard the debate about mission trips.

On one hand, books and blog posts have cited their potential to do more harm than good. A handful of people with significant platforms have argued that it’s better to send money and prayer-fueled encouragement than a short-term team to do tangible work the locals can do themselves.

On the other hand, those who organize mission trips or youth ministry veterans who see benefits of adults/teens having cross-cultural experiences offer that it’s more than the trip itself – it’s what happens on the trip that is the real takeaway.

This latter perspective seems to be the conclusion of Bill and Melinda Gates, too.

The wealthy and generous couple were on Charlie Rose recently, sharing about their perspective on the global condition. Bill Gates offered how he went into a village in 1997.

The couple believes that eliminating poverty and disease is possible, but it will take a combination of brain power (“putting enough IQ’s on the problem”) and heart… because “the worse you see, the more you’ll do.”

Melinda Gates offered this summation:

melindagates“I think you have to go these places, and you have to let your heart break. And you have to say to yourself, ‘What if was born into these circumstances… what would life be like for me as a mother or father? How would I save my child’s life? What lengths would I go to to feed my children?’ When you can put yourself on what I call ‘The Other Side of the Mat’ – because when you sit down to talk with villagers, you’re often sitting on a mat from one side to the other – if was in those circumstances, what I would I want the West to do? What would I tell them?

And when you let your heart break and think about what it would be like to deal with a child dying of malaria, you say to yourself, ‘My gosh… we have to save not just that child, but 600,000 children. And that can be done.

So you let your heart break, but then you come home and you take all the science meetings and you see what the great innovations are and you start to figure out ‘How do I deliver these things into these remote settings…'”

In another presentation, Melinda Gates explained, “The reality is this: Every year, more than 10 million children die before they turn five, most of them from conditions we know how to prevent or treat. In some countries I’ve visited, mothers don’t give their children names for weeks or even months because they don’t want to start caring about them. The chances are just too high that their children will die in those first few weeks of life.”

So… let’s circle back to mission trips.

Do you think it’s valuable to invest into students, young adults and older individuals to allow them to have this perspective?

Or do you have a counter thought?

– Tony

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2 thoughts on “Mission Trips – the Other Side of the Mat

  1. Isabel Schiefer

    I believe that our young people need to experience ‘the other side of the mat’. We regularly take our team to very poor areas and towns in Namibia and their hearts and perspective are changed for life.

  2. Tom Guerrasio

    I’ve been on a dozen or more short-term mission trips, mostly with youth group students but also with other adults. My experience has been that an extended period away from home has been used by the Lord to do great things in the lives of His people. Service is often God’s way to not only help those who are in need but also to transform those who serve. After all, we are saved by God’s grace, through faith in Christ, to do good works.

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Mission Trips – the Other Side ...

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