Outreach Magazine published an article by Dan King called “Why You Shouldn’t Build a House on Your Next Mission Trip“:
That might sound like an unusual thing to say to a missions team on their way to a construction project that they’re funding. But why else do you go on a mission trip? You go to work, right? You send your own (and other people’s) hard earned money to buy supplies, add a little extra to cover your plane ticket for a little overseas travel, and you arrive to do something awesome that apparently the poor local people can’t do for themselves.
I know this might sound overly simplistic, but that pretty much nails it on the head for most of our church’s mission trip projects. We are a results-oriented culture that feels like we’re not making a difference unless we have something tangible that we can point to and say, “Look at what we did!”
King’s point is so true: our “need” to leave something tangible behind…to have somehow bettered things by our presence…often counters what may be helpful. King writes about the goals of the Mission Trips led by Chris Marlow and his non-profit “Help One Now”. Their purpose is to break the cycle of poverty.
The goal of the organization is rescue orphans by meeting the immediate need created by extreme poverty, restore their hope by meeting basic needs through child sponsorship programs, and renewing their communities through long-term, sustainable growth.
When a team goes on a mission trip, each person is responsible for raising an extra $500 over and above their actual cost for the trip. The extra money is used to fund housing and other building projects, but not so that the team can go down there to do the work, too. More importantly, the money is used to hire locals to do the work.
The goal is to create jobs. And quite honestly, if we’re doing the work, then we’re taking jobs away. That only creates a reliance on our help and doesn’t actually break the cycle of poverty. We think we’re doing a good thing, and we get even more excited when the locals come out and volunteer their time to help us on this “charitable” project.
Breaking the cycle of poverty means that people need jobs, not volunteerism. They need opportunities, not handouts. Creating a job means that you’re giving someone the means to spend money, which also means that someone else has the opportunity to make money.