Tips for Trips: Advice from a Haitian Missionary
by Jillian Kittrell ('08), Emmaus House, Cap Haitien, Haiti
As a host of short-term mission teams, I often get asked whether or not I validate the money spent on their mission trip. I dread this question.
I mean, what in the world do they expect me to say? For most teams my answer is an absolute yes, however sometimes, if I were to be completely honest, I might just say I wish they had stayed home and sent us their money instead.
Truth is, I don’t know how I really feel about this question. As a previous short-term missionary, I know how good short-term missions can be. Coming to Haiti every summer was my favorite part of the year. The relationships I built with people during my short-term visits were priceless and eventually brought me to Haiti to live and serve full time. I am a huge supporter of short-term missions. But on the flip side, now that I am the one living here and receiving teams, I can’t help but to let my mind wonder into the “what ifs”.
What if teams stopped coming for just one year and sent us their money instead?
What if we had $100,000+ extra dollars to work with instead of teams?
My mind begins to spin around with the possibilities.
We could remodel our facilities, hire new employees, increase staff salaries, pay off some debt, send a few students to college, feed countless people in our community, and the list goes on…
Maybe that sounds awful, but that is honestly where my mind goes sometimes.
Please don’t think I am saying I think all of our short-term mission teams should just stay home and send us money. Please don’t think that at all. All I am trying to say is this: If you are going to invest a large amount of money in a short-term mission, make your time and money worth it.
First of all, don’t go somewhere to do what missionaries and the local people can already do for ourselves. Instead, come for something greater. Do your research on what we can’t provide and do ourselves, and come do that. Second, come to encourage the Christians who are already working hard to spread the kingdom of God in a given area. Third, come to learn. And above all, come to build relationships with the local people.
I have been fortunate to play many different roles in short-term missions- first as a participant, then as a team leader through Lipscomb, and now as a host here in Haiti. All three roles have taught me countless lessons about short-term missions. Being a host for the past 2½ years, however, has afforded me more wisdom than I have ever expected to receive on the topic.
Am I a supporter of short-term missions? Absolutely! If it weren’t for short-term missions I wouldn’t be living here in Haiti today. Short-term missions has changed my life. And I believe it can change everyone’s life if they let it. That may not mean moving oversees for everyone, but for some it may. How missions should change each one of us should be up for God to decide.
Last but not least, remember that Jesus told us to go to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). He didn’t tell us to go paint, play, build, or heal. These things, although good, are not the reason why you should go on a mission trip. You go on mission trips to bring others to Christ. If you are a doctor going to help people’s physical pains, do so with the underlying cause of planting seeds in your patients. If you are going to build a building, do so with the intention to plant seeds with the locals you will be working with. And the list goes on.
All in all, I love short-term missions. In the grand scheme of things they are a glimpse into our future in Heaven- a future when all nations will gather together to bring glory to God. Forget culture, country, and language barriers- we will all be one. So if you participate in short-term missions in any capacity, I thank you for your willingness to love and help others all over God’s beautiful world. May you be a blessing to those you have been called to serve.