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MISGUIDED MISSIONS | How To Help W/out Hurting

December 1, 2016


This past Thanksgiving weekend I had the opportunity to hit the trails with a good friend of mine from back home in Indiana.  I successfully won him over for reasons why to ride the southeast.  A little downhill along the groomed singletrack of Ridgeline, at DuPont, works every time!


This post is not so much about the riding but the conversation we had on the way home.  We got on the topic of missions.  We each shared our pros and cons on missions, as it is today, but settled on an agreement of God's Word is what missions is all about.


This post is also not going to be about the right or wrong way to do missions.  Let us be clear: God's plan for your life and how he wants you to bring him glory and further his kingdom is between you and Him and those he wants you to reach / partner with along the way.  This post is meant to give you something to think about.  Something to investigate.  Something to pray about.


Let's start by saying and agreeing that: We are ALL called to spread God's Word, share his glory, and further His kingdom i.e. Do Missions.


Agree?  Good!  Now let's continue... 


Earlier this week, Fully Packed Adventure Ministries posted a quote from the book Cross:


"The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.  The wrath of God upon the world means we need to be urgent in getting the gospel there in time."


Back to our agreement: we are ALL called to spread His Word.  This statement backs this up and leads us to our next point ----> Doing Missions:


Our mission, at Fully Packed Adventure Ministries, is clear: Coming together through outdoor ministries to Reach Equip Partner and Send for His glory.  How we accomplish this mission is up to each chapter.  You see, a chapter in Honduras isn't going to reach people the same as a chapter in the midwest.  Same goes for geographical locations in the United States - the midwest operates different then the west or south.


By enforcing a "be all end all" approach to doing missions at FPAM in all locations can lead to a misguided mission.  The way we help people in Honduras won't always work here in the states and visa versa.  Also, the way we reach people out west might not always work the same in the midwest or south.  


Matthew 6:24 - "No one can server to masters."  The only rewarding part of missions is meant for God - bring Him the glory and further his kingdom.  So, how do we keep ourselves from a misguided missions trip.  It is critical that we keep our mission God centered, God focused, and God driven.  Anything else is just wasting time.  Mission trips are meant to be inconvenient, not easy, and not self rewarding.  Missions is God calling you to leave the comforts of this world and go reach the unreached.  


At FPAM, we strive to train our leaders in Biblical accuracy and give them help on intertwining Biblical accuracy into their personal ministry - how they will utilize outdoor activities to spread His Word.  


God's Word is the key piece of the puzzle.  While we have geographical challenges as well as their customs to battle against, we know that one thing is common across the board - God's Word.


There's a book called: When Helping Hurts - How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor... and yourself.


Side note: anyone getting started / is doing missions (which should be ALL of us - remember our agreement) should pick up this book.  Great read!


Back to the book.  The book is broken up into 4 parts.  All parts are very informational, but Part 3 really stood out to me: Practical Strategies for Helping Without Hurting.  In this section the author recalls a story from an African storyteller about Americans doing missions. 


Elephant and Mouse were best friends.  One day Elephant said, "Mouse, let's have a party!"  Animals gathered from far and near.  They ate.  They drank. They sang.  And they danced.  And nobody celebrated more and danced harder than Elephant.  After the party was over, Elephant exclaimed, "Mouse, did you ever go to a better party?  What a blast!"  But Mouse did not answer.  "Mouse, where are you?" Elephant called. He looked around for his friend, and then shrank back in horror.  There at Elephant's feet lay Mouse.  His little body was ground into the dirt. He had been smashed by the big feet of his exuberant friend, Elephant.  "Sometimes, that is what it is like to do mission with you Americans," the African storyteller commented. "It is like dancing with an Elephant."


Think back on a short-term missions trip.  Were you an elephant?  Did you come in "guns a blazing" ready to Do Missions, but in the end you squashed the mouse?


In her article Treading Lightly While "Helping"Relevant author Amber Van Schooneveld gives some practical ways to help while not hurting.  Here is an excerpt from one of her practical ways for helping:


"Instead of coming up with our own ideas of what "they" need, ask.  Better yet, involve them.  Better yet, allow them to own and drive any intervention.  Allow people to be active in shaping their future, not just relegating them to passive receivers.  If we want real change, then we won't just do things to people, we will listen to them.  Partner with them.  Join them."


So, back to Doing Missions.  In order for us to apply these practical ways of helping, from her article, and strive to not be the American Elephant of missions we must first "train them up in the ways of the Lord"Ephesians 6:4.  Without a solid foundation in the ways of the Lord, how can we expect our people to go and "Do Missions" correctly and not be the Elephant?  If they don't understand what God is truly calling them, and ALL of us (remember the agreement), to do then how can we expect them to carry out God's calling in their lives - reach the unreached / spread His good news - while not hurting the people they are trying to help.


I once heard a saying: "You can't help others if you haven't fixed yourself first."  In order for us to "Do Missions" we must first fix ourselves.  Build that solid foundational relationship with Christ before you go and try to fix your brother or sister.  


Now, I know there is a lot of good happening on short and long term missions but I want you to remember something before you go on your next (or first) mission trip:


It's easy to hunker down and rough it for a week, month, or long term (whatever that might look like), but remember that at any time you can call it quits and go back to your lifestyle.  On the other hand, the people that you're working with don't have the option.  They don't get to call it quits and climb out of the jungle, slums, or impoverished country.  This is their life.  This is home for them.


Do Missions, but do it with a solid foundational relationship with Christ.  Don't do it to pat yourself on the back, rough it for a week, or seek out some spiritual enlightenment.  When we put Christ at the center of all that we are doing he will guide us to the people he wants us to share His word with and from there you will be able to begin a relationship, much like you and Christ did, with those people and find out how you can be a true servant of God to the hurting.


Thanks and God Bless!


David Wildman


Photo: Continental Divide Route.  1 wrong turn can misguide us from our mission - get to camp.



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