Week Seven – Short-Term Missions

CAFO Course Forums OVC Essentials – 2018 Winter Week Seven – Short-Term Missions

Viewing 13 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #31665
      Leah St. Pierre
      CAFO Staff

      Feel free to respond to just one or all of the prompts below:

      Reflect on your personal experiences participating in short-term missions and how the materials from this week intersect with thoughts and experiences you’ve had.

      Share an idea for a short-term mission trip that would abide by the standards of excellence we learned about this week.

      Discussions about short-term missions can sometimes be very personal and contentious for people. Why do you think this is? Did you have any personal reactions to the content this week that you’d be willing to share?

    • #32007
      Jessica Rush
      Participant

      The information this week on short-term missions made me think back on some STM trips that I have taken and what they did well and what they needed to improve upon. About 10 years ago, I went to Mexico to help at an orphanage and I ended up going two summers in a row. While there, we built a church for the orphanage to use but mostly ended up playing with the children. At the time I did not see this as harmful but now, I understand how these children had to endure saying goodbye to people they formed relationships with-children who already were dealing with the trauma of losing their parents. Like the material stated, good- intentions can lead to harmful repercussions for those who don’t get to return to the US with us. On the flip side, last summer I went on a STM trip to the DR to distribute water filters to people in the community. This was a much different experience because we were helping to equip people to take care of themselves after we returned back to our home. From this point on, I am now going to be advocating for my local church to be more intentional about the types of trips we take and helping as much as possible in this area!

      • #32023
        meghan rivard
        Participant

        Yes, I absolutely agree! this also made me think back to the short term missions I have been on. We completed some work on their building as well as had activities for the children. I never thought about it at the time, but after the information this week, I can see how that can be detrimental. it struck how they should turn to their primary caregivers for their basic needs and hugs/affirmation.

      • #32049
        openarms
        Participant

        Hi Jessica,

        I loved hearing your heart in this post! I really resonate with your observations – I don’t think any of us intend to harm the children we interact with on missions trips, but it can be so eye-opening and convicting to think how our teams or organizations have impacted them. I love that you feel called to advocate for positive models of STM in your church!

        Blessings,

        Laura

      • #32382
        Courtney Schmidt
        Participant

        I agree with you, Jessica. It is so important to consider what mission trips you’re a part of and what its primary purpose is. It is such a different and helpful mindset to think long term about how we can best equip the people there without creating unnecessary harmful effects in the process. I think before learning the material this week, I likely would have engaged in a short term mission trip with the kids thinking about how to best show my love to them, but now I would like in more broader terms. I now have a better understanding of certain boundaries and the effects well intentioned actions could have.

    • #32010
      Kaitlyn Stutts
      Participant

      I have had the opportunity to participate in several short term missions to Peru, South Africa, Swaziland, and Malawi. These trips have all been taken in partnership with a church, and usually some other organization such as Compassion International or 100x Development. In these trips, we visited local communities or churches, rather than orphanages. While we interacted with the children on these trips, it was in partnership with the local workers. After this week’s materials, there are aspects of the trips I have participated in that could have been improved since we still interacted with the vulnerable children, but overall the trips focused on partnering with the local church leaders and teachers. It is definitely important for STM volunteers to not step in as the primary caregivers for vulnerable children, as many of these children have attachment issues. As discussed in the CAFO workshop, it would also be important to train volunteers on proper interaction with the children, so they can learn to differentiate between safe and responsible adults. The STM I have participated in have strong relationships with local workers, because they are the individuals in the trenches on a daily basis. It is important to empower these workers, because they will be the true influencers in the lives of the children.

    • #32024
      meghan rivard
      Participant

      It must be my Naivety, but until this week, I never really thought about the adverse reactions that could come from short term missions. I have been on a couple short term mission trips. From the information this week, it really stressed the importance of coming a long the people and not doing anything for them. Also, when the information brought up the children and how they should not come to us on the mission trip, but go to their primary caregivers for their basic needs as well as hugs, etc, it really hit home. on one of my mission trips, we did a lot with the children, and I didn’t even think about these things. I will be using this information to hopefully educate others about future mission trips.

      • #32040
        Kaitlyn Stutts
        Participant

        Meghan,

        I definitely can understand and relate to your post. The information presented in this week’s content is valuable, but not something always discussed before a STM. I definitely agree with you that there are aspects of the trips I went on where we interacted with the children too much or in a way that takes away from their primary caretaker. I am thankful the trips I was a part of also focused on providing and coming alongside the caregivers. STM should definitely be focused around empowering those whose boots are already on the ground and can make so much greater of an impact than any volunteer in a one-two week visit.

    • #32048
      openarms
      Participant

      I’ve personally gone on quite a few missions trips – some good, others not so good. One of my first experiences was a trip planned so poorly, I felt jaded against short-term missions for quite a while. It took some intentional conversation with others, and a personal interaction with missions done well, for me to feel comfortable with the idea again.

      This week, one idea stood out to me: Short term missions have incredible potential to do good, but they also hold incredible potential for harm. Over and over again we heard how careful we must be when engaging with vulnerable kids – especially when we’re inviting large groups into that experience. I’ve seen firsthand the damage that can be done when teams aren’t properly prepared for a short-term experience, but I’ve also seen it done incredibly well. There’s so much care and intentionality that goes into doing short-term missions well.

      I don’t know that I’ve come away with any answers this week, but the resources we’ve looked and the discussions we’ve had have helped me continue to press into the process. I loved the quote from one of the Standards of Excellence brochures that said, “Always consider what effect it would have on the community if the activities and relational interactions of your trip were repeated by other teams over time.” What a good (and convicting!) benchmark to measure by!

      Overall, this week has provided me with lots of food for thought. I’m looking forward to talking through some of the ideas with my coworkers to see where we can better equip our mission team members and care for our kids with the highest integrity possible.

      – Laura

      • #32051
        Brittany Dealy
        Participant

        “I loved the quote from one of the Standards of Excellence brochures that said, “Always consider what effect it would have on the community if the activities and relational interactions of your trip were repeated by other teams over time.” What a good (and convicting!) benchmark to measure by!” ‘open arms’

        I totally agree! I also think that if the trip was based on a long term relationship with the community/church/ etc…. that if the trip was harmful, God can redeem that relationship and teach the team/leaders how to overcome these things! We can learn from the mistakes and potentially grow deeper in relationship, by apologizing, repenting and moving forward in a more healthy direction!

      • #32441
        Emily Evans
        Participant

        I completely agree with you! Short term missions takes a lot of preparation, prayer, and fellowship among your team. These must be done so that your trip is fulfilling and beneficial, not draining and harmful to the kids. I love that quote of thinking what impact the community would have if teams like yours came weekly. It really puts into perspective what impact and legacy you are leaving behind.

    • #32050
      Brittany Dealy
      Participant

      Short-term missions can be such a hard thing to talk about. How much is helping vs how much is harming? I grew up in a church that partnered with a Hospital in Haiti and we always sent teams down to help the same group of people in the same area. I loved this, as it was/is a long term partnership, and that is definitely more beneficial than coming in a for a week and never returning. It is aiding and teaching instead of ‘being paternal’ as the author of Helping without Harming.

      I went on a missions trip with my dad’s college (he was  professor) and helped build houses in Mexico. That was an interesting trip, as it was one where I felt we probably gained so much more, as the missionaries: God working on our hearts as we try to understand this type of poverty and this type of suffering. The families we built the homes for were brick and cement, and the parents who weren’t actively at jobs were helping, which was teaching… but not sure if we taught something they would or did ever continue for a better life. I fully believe in long term partnerships, and STM being facilitated through relationship and equipping and training and economic empowerment, like what my non-profit does. We are accredited through SOE and I am so honored that they have such amazing standards that help set up exactly how trips can be planned and handled… I’ve also spent time in group homes in S. Africa, and realized that holding those children who cling to you… wasn’t the best for them. It is heart wrenching to not, but I understand why in the SOE reading, they explain that you should encourage the child to be with their parent figure. Lots to think about.

      • #32086
        Lis Doane
        Participant

        Brittany, I so agree with your comment about learning so much on a short term mission trip as missionaries.  As I come from an international development background, my initial reaction to short term mission trips was negative.  Real development requires invested time and relationships built on trust to happen.  However, a year and a half ago I moved to a much bigger church, whhich was very involved in short and long term missions.  This church is very intentional and thoughtful about the work it does and as I realized the effect the short term mission trips was having on the participants, my mind began to change.  I lived overseas for almost ten years and it completely changed my perceptions about poverty, other people and cultures, and the world in general.  Most people, however, may never have that opportunity and short term mission trips are a chance for them to realize first hand that how we live in America is not reality for the vast majority of the world’s population.  I realized that God can use short term mission trips to change and expand people’s hearts and we can be intentional on designing and implementing these trips in a way that minimizes potential harmful impact.

    • #32084
      Kaari Vasquez
      Participant

      Interestingly enough, my husband and I are both serving as volunteers (2 yrs) at an orphanage in Mexico, but neither of us had ever been on a STM trip before coming here!

      Since being here, we have observed and come along side many mission teams and so as we were learning from the resources and the speaker this week, we have been able to connect what we have learned to what we have seen first hand. It has been hard to watch as one group of youth has come and has partnered children up calling them ‘sisters’ or ‘brothers.’ Our kids are then devastated when these newfound “family members” leave. Others tickle and hug and hold the kids. As a mom who has traveled the journey of helping my own children (brought to our family through adoption) form healthy attachments, it has been very difficult to watch. On the other hand, sometimes I almost feel grateful to see certain children receiving the love and affection that they are not getting otherwise.

      I, myself, was convicted about my own interactions with our children here. I go back and forth on whether or not my family has helped or harmed. We have formed a particularly close bond with a sibling set here who live in a home with inconsistent caregivers (constantly changing) and have become ‘parental figures’ for them. Is it better for them to attach to us (here 2 years) or a temporary caregiver (typically leaving after 6 months)? If you have an answer or opinion, I would truly love to hear it!

      We are about to leave and our pending departure has been very difficult on all of us. My heart breaks to think of the further damage we have caused in their ability to trust. That being said, we are hopeful that we can help them experience a healthy goodbye rather than the sudden unpredictable losses they are used to.

      We praise God for all of the incredible men, women, and children whom we have met through the teams that pass through. They encourage and inspire us. We will be praying for ways to gently guide and suggest changes so that our children here are not put at risk in any way.

    • #32087
      Lis Doane
      Participant

      As the parent of two kids from hard places, I am very familiar with  trauma and attachment research, so I have been struggling  all week with whether short term mission trip participants should have any contact at all with vulnerable children.  However, I was very struck by Nicole’s suggestion, during the Zoom call yesterday, that short term mission groups could implement fun activities that actually foster attachment between children and their parents or other caregivers.  If we train our short term mission teams to be trauma-informed and actually task them with designing and implementing activities that improve vulnerable children’s primary attachments, we add a whole new dimension to the efficacy of short term mission teams.  We can teach the gospel to vulnerable children all over the world but if we leave those children unable to form healthy relationships, how will that affect their ability to trust God in a relationship?  This used to be one of my biggest fears for my adopted children before we started implementing connected therapeutic parenting techniques.

      • #32161
        Jessica Rush
        Participant

        I was unable to attend the call last week but I think that is a great idea to get the volunteers to facilitate things that will help the attachment between children and caregivers! This would be a awesome and would still allow for the volunteers to preach the Gospel to the kiddos as well!

    • #32111
      Lindsey Hughes
      Participant

      I’ve never been on an international short-term mission trip, so I’m not really sure how much I have to contribute to this conversation. This is likely a very personal and contentious topic for people because people are so passionate about these trips and the good work that is done. No one goes on these trips with the intention to cause harm, but rather they go with the intention to do good. I hate to say this, but because I’ve never been on an international STM, I’ve not thought about the impact that these trips could have on the children involved. After going through this week’s material I can totally see, however, the need for well-planned trips with well-informed individuals. I believe that educating the people and groups involved in short-term mission trips on the impact of their interactions with children would go a long way in creating a positive outcome. Having appropriate levels of interaction and placing boundaries and standards for what that looks like seems like a logical steps to take in order to minimize the negative repercussions felt by those involved. How great is it, though, to have a forum like this to discuss these topics and learn from each other’s experiences! So many unique perspectives and experiences to glean from and such great information that we can take forward with us and potentially present to those in leadership over these trips.

    • #32112
      Lindsey Hughes
      Participant

      Meghan, thanks for sharing your perspective on this. I also found what was said about the importance of working alongside the people you’re serving rather than doing everything for them to be a really vital part of the conversation this week. I feel like, as believers, we want to serve and do for others, but from the reading this week, I can see how doing for others could actually be detrimental in the long run. Rather, we should serve alongside these people and equip them to continue to do for themselves once the trip is over.

    • #32381
      Courtney Schmidt
      Participant

      My main take away from this week’s material is the importance of focusing on the children’s well being, rather than the experience of the volunteers, when it comes to short term mission trips. Also, that we need to wisely engage in short term mission trips and consider how to equipped the children’s primary care givers rather than circulating groups of volunteers in and out of their life. I appreciate that they are considering the children’s psychological and emotional well being when they are making decisions.

      • #32823
        Natalie Cormier
        Participant

        It really makes you think about is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all. In the case of children, it is clearly shown that it is better to have never been loved, but hopefully short term missions can instead focus on having the children loved by people who can build a sustainable relationship. Or even if they do receive aid, how is it sustainable and how can you keep that relationship going? even though I have moved cities, I keep in touch with the girls I mentored from years past so that they know someone is still invested in their lives.

    • #32440
      Emily Evans
      Participant

      I loved this week on short term missions because short term missions have a very special place in my heart. I have been to the Dominican Republic and Mexico and am getting ready to go back to Mexico in a few weeks. This week really made me think back to my trips and the impact we made. My trip to the DR was with my 11th grade high school class and I am realizing some changes that could be made. We spent time in the villages everyday with the children and I used to see it as a very exciting and fulfilling thing that we were doing. But now that I see the emotional and attachment trauma that can cause the kids, I see better ways to minister. Forming those bonds with the kids and then leaving isn’t healthy for them. This week taught me better ways to communicate and show them Gods love, without getting too close.

    • #32822
      Natalie Cormier
      Participant

      Discussions about short-term missions can sometimes be very personal and contentious for people. Why do you think this is? Did you have any personal reactions to the content this week that you’d be willing to share?

      This week really made me question what are my motives for going on short term missions and am I judging people? I mean some people obviously require resources, but do short term missionaries really consider if people want their help? Going back to earlier weeks, poverty can be emotional, and if someone is missing so many things in the world, then they can still have their pride. How hard is it to give up your pride and ask for help when you already feel that you don’t have anything? I know that my family has received aid and my dad has gotten upset by it. Same with short-term missions, is this really benefiting communities or is it benefiting the people who are going on the trip? In my experience, there are people who will reject help that they could use. One of the great things about the church is that it allows a pathway for people to be humble and allows a community to support each other. I would be a lot more receptive for my church to say I want to bless you with this and another church is going to help me versus strangers saying I’m going to help you in this way that I have identified.

    • #33099
      Emma MacDougall
      Participant

      While learning more about STMs this week, it has definitely challenged me to think deeper into my thoughts and experiences with short term missions. Last year I went to Haiti where we installed clean water filters and shared the Gospel through rural villages. That was the first mission trip that I had been on and while I thought it was extremely life giving, I can see now why it could be harmful in some ways. In the video “Why Good Intentions Are Not Good Enough” one of the women said that if someone were to give money to people then they could think that they are thought of as being poor so they might as well not work because they would be given free things anyways. I hadn’t thought of it that way because we went through the villages and installed the clean water which was super important for their health and well-being but it might not have been as helpful by just installing the filters and leaving. We were partnered with a local church when we were there and had translators to tell them how to get involved but after learning more about short term missions, it really challenged me to think about it in a different way.

Viewing 13 reply threads
  • The forum ‘OVC Essentials – 2018 Winter’ is closed to new topics and replies.