If you’re reading this I am guessing you have either:
a) been on a short-term mission trip or b) sent money to someone going on one.
Now, I could write a whole book about the benefits and limitations of short-term mission trips. I have seen short-term mission trips go very well or very, very badly.
The organization that we work for hosts teams of college students, youth groups, churches and rotary club members throughout the year. A big part of my job is coordinating the details so those groups come prepared and our Guatemalan staff is empowered to host them. We work hard to help these groups understand that their role is to serve, learn and catch a vision of what God is doing here. If you have been one of the people who has come to serve and learn in Guatemala with us, I have nothing to say but thank you. I really enjoy what I do and the people I get to meet.
So, Why Do We Serve?
Now, weather you consider yourself a religions or spiritual person, or have ever taken a mission trip, I’m guessing some of the times that you have felt the best about yourself were times when you were helping other people, right? And I’m guessing being generous once encouraged you to want to keep living generously. Because you probably learned whether consciously or subconsciously that being generous is contagious. It gave you a sense of dignity and empowerment, right? And I believe we were created to serve other people, because maybe it’s only then that we realize that living for ourselves is not the way we want to live.
The thing is having the opportunity to serve oversees or locally is just that- an opportunity. By definition it means you know how to make that happen, you know where to go and how to raise support so that you can serve. Gerber and I are firm believers that GENEROSITY is a POWERFUL AGENT of CHANGE both on an individual level and in a larger community.
However, what can happen in short-term missions is that well-meaning people come from other countries to give, but in the process take away an opportunity from someone else in the host country. There are not simple answers. We fall into patterns that have been reinforced historically, economically and politically for years. Some people or countries (in this case, Guatemala) get very good at being receivers, and others (in this case, the States) become very good at being givers. But we if tried to change it? What if we did something different?
The truth is we need to BE both. Givers and receivers. As individuals, as communities, as churches, as teachers, and countries. We need to be both, givers and receivers.
Guatemalans Helping Guatemalans
This October we want to provide Guatemalan students the opportunity to serve other Guatemalans. These 12 students may not have the same kind of resources that you or I have, but they want a chance to be generous. They want a chance to serve people in their own country, in their own language and own culture.
We’re taking them to a community where we’ve been working the past few months, a village called Coyolate. In the southern part of Guatemala where the humidity sticks to your skin and beads of sweat still form at 8 at night, are about 40 families who live on Government “donated” land. After their own communities disappeared during the civil war, many people fled to Mexico as refugees and when they returned they were given this land in 2000. The community school was just completed in 2004.
We’ll sleep under mosquito nets, and spend days mixing cerement, and building water filters with families. We’ll probably eat a lot of eggs, beans and tortillas and I’m sure if my husband has anything to with it, there be a few chamuscas played on dirt fields with tall sticks marking the goals. We’ll have debriefs in the evenings and some activities with the local school. At one of our recent meetings when we told the students to bring their bathing-suit. They looked confused. Why? They asked. We will shower by bucket without the privacy of walls and curtains. Hence the appropriateness of a bathing suit 🙂
And more than anything that we accomplish during that week, we hope these students will understand that if you say you want to follow Jesus, then what you DO often means far more than what you SAY.
Like any trip it costs money to do this. Food, transportation, supplies, etc.
These students have been working hard, really hard. They have been selling cookies and muffins at recess, hosting garage sale kind of events, asking fellow students and community members to raise money. So far they have raised about $705 — which when you’re doing it by collecting fichas in increments of 2-3 quetzales (roughly 25 cents) that’s A LOT. And we want to match their effort.
Will you help us?*