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When writing, I usually try to remain light hearted and fancy-free: making witty puns, small jokes and the like. However, every once in a while after a long period of brooding over various topics that tend to infuriate me, I will dash off an eloquent soliloquy berating whatever subject has fallen under my wrathful gaze that day.
Today is one of those days. And the subject is what I like to call, “Vacationaries” (that is not trademarked yet, but if anyone asks to use it, tell them to reference me). Vacationaries are what are supposedly missionaries, but ones who go on short term mission trips to exotic places and spend 50% of their time doing shoddy construction work that takes away from local businesses, and 50% of their time going on sight-seeing adventures throughout the countryside (if you wish to read up on the exact specifics of what makes short-term missions not great, read “Toxic Charity” by Robert D. Lupton).
Vacationaries are Christians who want a guilt free way to travel to exotic places, do some good, and get to experience the “real side” of foreign countries. Honestly, I get the draw, and must admit I have been on a few of these myself, and they’ve been extremely enjoyable. But when I was doing it, I knew that I didn’t really care about building a new bathroom for a school, but just wanted to go and see another country and have other people foot the bill. I confess that, and I repent of that, and now seek to start a campaign against short-term missions.
Now, obviously there are immeasurable components of mission work: the community, the experience, etc.: all of which God can use to sanctify and build up believers. However, I know my heart, and I know I am not alone in that I went on the trip because I knew I could fundraise a vacation and forget about it a few weeks later, even after wearing around my extremely cheap but real poncho.
I think the thing that may upset me most however, is the Instagram culture of pride that has arisen from these trips. We are constantly looking for the next great picture of those whose lives are so radically different from ours: who have never seen an iPhone, who “love” when the white, middle-class college girls and boys come and lay uneven footings and give out t-shirts. We do not care about these people. We care about letting all our internet friends know how loving and caring we are that we would “sacrifice” our time to go overseas and “serve” them.
Finally, as a culture, we need to reevaluate the way we view missions entirely. A few spring breaks ago when I was on a short-term mission trip to Belize, there was a group on the plane all wearing matching shirts saying, “into the darkness.” I would like you to take a moment and consider how demeaning these shirts probably were to the inhabitants of the country. Are we so righteous that we consider an entire country in darkness? (I’m not sure what the qualifications were because statistically it was a predominantly Christian country). To think that we are the sole arbiters of Christian truth and that we are better than them because of money is the upmost of arrogance, and honestly a tad sickening.
I know this article won’t make much of a difference and is just a drop in the bucket of internet articles, but if you’re reading this, please consider these words, and investigate why you are going on your trip. If you’re going to help the homeless and orphans in another country, and have never volunteered an afternoon at a soup kitchen for your neighbors, then take some time to reflect on your life that week and don’t go on the vacation.


James Harris

James is probably the 3rd or 4th funniest guy you know. Funny enough to invite to a party; not witty enough to talk about later. Co-Founder and Content Editor of Everyday Exiles, Director of College Ministry at Reynolda Church, EPC, and husband to Meredith. He has a dog named Calvin, a cat named Opie, and a robot vacuum named Alfred.

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