**Disclaimer: i am in no way saying I have this figured out or am better. I also agree that what I have said is considered ‘doing’ as well. I just wanted to say that up front!**
I am heading out to Guatemala in 2 days for a trip with my mission organization. I have been asked this same questions over 10-15 times in the past few days leading up to it. ‘So what are you doing there?”
Each time, it sends a chill down my spine. There are so many problems with this question
- It implies that I am going into my trip with a problem to fix, to take on an issue myself because I am from a more advanced culture so I ‘must know more’ and attempt to figure it out myself in the ONE week I am there
- It implies the people I will be with have zero ability to do anything about their situation and they need a north american to come ‘do’ something because they can’t.
- It justifies the financials. Our mind frame in north america is that if people are going to donate money towards something, they want a tangible and visible way to see where the money went.
Here’s the reason it bothers me the most. My entire goal for my organization and any effort, trip, money and so on and on that comes from my end is 100% focused on sustainability, empowerment and building UP not handing out. This is becoming a newer concept for people living in north america to understand as we are very accustom to what ‘short term missions’ looks like. We raise money, we fly to a developing country and we DO something. We build something, we fix something, we take over and do it ourselves and then the worst part….we leave. It’s almost like a drive by mr fix it and then poof, were gone.
So to answer the question. What am I doing? The trip I am going on looks extremely different. The goal of this trip is understanding; understanding the dynamics in this community, whats happening? whats going well? whats not going well? where are there problems? what are the obstacles the people are facing? what is the region like? what is the surrounding area’s like? My goal is the opposite of finding the problems and attempting to fix them, but rather learning the problems people are dealing with on the front lines (the people themselves) and start developing a plan WITH them on how things can change.
Another goal is to start developing relationships. To talk to the people who, from a north american standpoints, lives we are there to fix. What are there real issues? Yes maybe there housing structures are not up to our standards, but is that a crushing problem in their life? Are they fine with their housing but have a different problem we don’t even know about because we didn’t ask. We come in with our northern culture and compare it to our standards, our comforts, our codes and technology and quickly determine they cannot live like that. But what if they are fine with how they are living but have other area’s that we can be creative and helpful in. Are we missing these opportunities by building housing and buildings they may not even need…or want?!? My goal is LONG TERM partnerships and relationships. This is not something that will happen in a week and never can. Is this the beginning of that long relationship? I am hoping so, and as I follow where I believe God is leading me, that will happen organically.
Another goal of this trip is to bring the start of something that can hopefully be helpful going forward. I have been working with 2 christian organizations; one that focuses on Money Management Skills and one that focuses on Entrepreneurship Training. While in this community, we are going to be sitting down with the youth of the community and also the families to start the conversation about these 2 topics.
The last part of this trip is that I am bringing my 4 year old daughter with me. I am excited and interested to view this trip through her perspective. Kids don’t see what we see, and Im excited for that refreshing look on life. Our goal as we do mission trips together is to write a book together in hopes to educate children living in North America about what is happening outside of the bubble we live in, but from a child’s perspective speaking to another child. Things like snack time are not a universal concept (which I’m sure to battle during this week as she will likely not adjust to that in one week) and the goal of writing this book with her is to show other ways that people live in the world, and how God loves us all the same!!!
It may seem like a funny answer but my goal of this trip is not to ‘do’ anything. My goal is to learn and understand. My goal is to find ways to help people become connected to ways to the solutions to the problems they are facing. My goal is to empower rather than patronize. To not come in and take over, but come in humbly and slowly and lift others up and allow them to work towards answering the issues for themselves.