A few comments about short-term mission trips

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Involvement in mission activities often leads to short-term mission trips and can be one of the best ways of learning about needs in the developing world, as well as a means of sharing your interests and skills with people who want them. If you take the time and effort to learn as much as possible before going — but do not go with a “know it all” or condescending attitude towards the people you hope to serve — it almost certainly will be a much better experience. Some of the material in the “Useful Books” section of this website may help. One interesting book is When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. Chapter 7 is called “Doing Short-Term Missions Without Doing Long-Term Harm” and offers important insights based on personal experiences and empirical data.

You will also notice three insurance firms described in this category that provide short-term mission trip insurance. Some have may have other forms of coverage that may be of interest to you. Examine them fully. In any case, do not go without appropriate insurance. Most of the commonly used U.S. health policies do not help when you are on an overseas mission trip. You might also find it worthwhile to use a Christian agency specializing in helping people wanting to book flights and make other preparations for short and long-term trips. An example is MissionTravel.org (see www.missiontravel.org).

Realize that going on an overseas short-term trip involves a lot of expense and ask whether that money might be better spent on something like helping to educate someone in a developing country or help pay for an important project. If what you are doing is a faith-based experience, pray and ask others to pray for your guidance and protection. Also be aware that short- term mission trips can sometimes be a considerable cost of time and resources to your hosts. In some cases, they can even be counter productive — such as when individuals with no specific skills go to a disaster area and get in the way.

Returning to the positive side, a big percentage of people develop stronger long-term interests in missions when they get home which otherwise might not have happened. Many who became full-time missionaries or other professional church leaders started with short-term mission trips. Could this include you?