Mar 01 2009

Pray for missions groups

Category: Mexico,ministry,missionsharmonicminer @ 10:26 am

I am not certain of the value of all the short term missions trips that high school and college students make to Mexico over Spring Break. I’m not saying there is NO value. But I always wonder if that value is more in terms of general inter-cultural contact than actual benefit to the indigenous population of Mexico. And I always find myself wondering if more good would be done by giving the enormous amount of money, spent in sending all those students to Mexico, directly to the missions groups who live there year-round, as opposed to parachuting in and leaving a few days later.

I am not suggesting “neglecting” Mexico, but I am suggesting that sending a hoard of students who consume voluminous resources is perhaps not the best stewardship of those resources, which could be directly given to the professional missionaries who LIVE there, and who could really use the help.

It is, of course, much less glamorous to students to raise some money and just send it somewhere than to raise some money and GO somewhere.  I get that.  It’s not as much fun.  The emotional high of “being a missionary” is missing.  They don’t have a story to tell after coming home.  But the Great Commission does not say, “Go on cool missions trips.”  It presupposes some amount of wisdom and discernment in what we do and how we do it.

Things have really, really deteriorated in Mexico, and it now appears very possible that some “short term missions trip” is going to end tragically, and that tragedy will cause a re-thinking of the purposes of the entire program.  Many who have made these trips for years will disagree, pointing out that it hasn’t happened yet.  The “frog in boiling water” analogy comes to mind, of course.

Below is an excerpt from one of thousands of articles on this topic of Mexico’s collapse as a polity.  People who know what’s going on in Mexico are worried, and delivering warnings.  We should listen, and carefully consider the programs now in place.  It is popular for Christians to discuss “counting the cost” in these circumstances, but when that phrase is used, the assumption is always that, whatever the cost, it must be paid.  I am not so sure.

This entire article is worth reading, and discusses, among other things, the warning by the US State Department to students planning to go to Mexico on Spring Break.

ThreatsWatch.Org: RapidRecon: We’ve Been In Denial

The drug violence in Mexico killed more than 5,800 people last year; since January 1, 2009, the murder rate has already hit 1,000! The revelation of warning students on Spring Break to avoid “crossing the river,” is ludicrous. All of a sudden this is “sage advice”? That anyone would vacation or worse, send a child to a university in Mexico given the lengthy trail of violence in Mexico is beyond my imagination.

To paraphrase: Maybe it’s better to stay away, and live to minister another day.

An excellent place to start is in the USA, which has enormous opportunity for ministry. What could tens of thousands of college and high school students accomplish in local USA communities that could use the help?  What relationships could they establish that could continue year-round?

Those whose administrative expertise and public relations savvy have gone into building very large programs of short term missions to Mexico might consider what could happen in the USA, if programs of similar size, enthusiasm and funding were directed at the neediest areas here.  And those same people should very prayerfully be considering what the effect will be on the entire enterprise if one carload of students is machine-gunned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In discussing this with a friend who is involved in planning these kinds of programs for a large institution, I was told, “Oh, the odds aren’t even one in ten thousand of there being any kind of trouble.”  Considering how many people go on these trips, those are very poor odds.  And I’m afraid the odds aren’t actually that good.

Pray for our missionaries, and for discernment on the part of program planners.

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