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Mission Tourism to a New Level


Megan

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Someone I knew when I was younger recently posted about "The World Race", a super speshul mission trip that takes participants to 11 countries over 11 months to evangelize "serve 'the least of these' while amongst real and raw community." (their words).

I'll admit I haven't watched the videos on the about page. But the page is full of jargon, like the following, rather than actual examples of what people are doing:

It's a generation that's dissatisfied with the status quo and is actively rising to the challenge of seeing the world transformed through tangible expressions of God's love. World Racers are seeing lives changed in nations all over the world.

I went and checked out some of the participant blogs to see if they were actually, you know, doing something other than sharing the Bible. Here's a quote from a blog regarding someone the participant is assisting for her monthly ministry:

She was called to Mozambique to teach the widows how to pray for one another. In her ministry with the widows she is teaching them that you don’t have to go to a witch doctor or a pastor to receive healing, you can go to each other.

Here's an excerpt from another participant:

We took bucket showers, ate rice and beans on the daily, picked mangos, and slept in the Mozambique summer heat. Dondo is a city that is in the midst of extreme spiritual warfare. Many of our team members were having nightmares and spiritual attacks regularly. Come to find out the entire community surrounding us was filled with satanic activity and practicing witch doctors. While we worshipped we would be mocked, have things thrown at us, and were shouted at. I’ve never experienced the intensity of spiritual warfare like I’ve seen here in Mozambique. It’s a heavy atmosphere in Dondo but the Lord is making His presence known!

By the way, the cost to go on one of these? $15,500. For that low, low price, you too can go on a poverty tourism trip and convert the heathens!

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Someone I knew when I was younger recently posted about "The World Race", a super speshul mission trip that takes participants to 11 countries over 11 months to evangelize "serve 'the least of these' while amongst real and raw community." (their words).

Here's a quote from a blog regarding someone the participant is assisting for her monthly ministry:

By the way, the cost to go on one of these? $15,500. For that low, low price, you too can go on a poverty tourism trip and convert the heathens!

Well ya know, it's hard to resist catcalling you when you come in where you weren't invited and try to browbeat the locals into junking generations' worth of belief system.

One last time-who asked you?

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They sound like that preacher from the Poisonwood Bible.

My thought exactly! That was a good book, highly recommend it if people haven't read it, touches on a lot of the things we discus here. Thinking of it, have we ever had a thread to recommend books to each other, specifically when we find something about faith, religion, family, gender roles and such?

Uh, I need to write more posts, 75 is a lot ya'll :-)

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!

Yeah, going to another country and tell the people that they are doing everything wrong will probably not win you any popularity contests. I admit, I have a deep loathing of missionaries and absolutely no respect for them. And teaching women how to pray-some who might be older than the missionary-sounds patronizing and arrogant.

Note:Some do go with the main intent of giving out food and clothing; however, those individuals should be called charities and not missionaries. I have no problem with these types of missionaries.

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Note:Some do go with the main intent of giving out food and clothing; however, those individuals should be called charities and not missionaries. I have no problem with these types of missionaries

It would be more charitable to pay a local to distribute food and make clothing. These trips are tourism, pure and simple. Tourism with an angle, so you can tell all your friends how self-sacrificing you are to go on your extended tropical vacation.

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Nice dose of racism in those descriptions. "Witch doctors?" Something tells me they wouldn't experience the same level of "satanic activity" and "spiritual warfare" in, say, Idaho. A quick browse of Wikipedia shows that the majority of Mozambique citizens are Christian already.

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And the thing about mission tourism is that it's acceptable to beg other people to give you money to do it. I would really like to do a trip to Russia; maybe I can ask other people to pay for if I bring a few Bibles with me.

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And the thing about mission tourism is that it's acceptable to beg other people to give you money to do it. I would really like to do a trip to Russia; maybe I can ask other people to pay for if I bring a few Bibles with me.

I know some people who just got back from a Russian "mission trip". :lol: They didnt' pay for a dime of it, it was all raised for them by churches and from what I can tell they went sight seeing and occasionally handed out tracks and Bibles to annoyed looking people.

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My thought exactly! That was a good book, highly recommend it if people haven't read it, touches on a lot of the things we discus here. Thinking of it, have we ever had a thread to recommend books to each other, specifically when we find something about faith, religion, family, gender roles and such?

Uh, I need to write more posts, 75 is a lot ya'll :-)

Quiver of Worldly Discussions has a "What Are You Reading?" thread and some threads requesting recs, as well as some posts about making a book club.

Funding: yeah, these $15k trip blogs include tons of requests for money so the participants can finish their missions. I wonder how I can get people to donate that much for me to go on a year long vacation?

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A lady I go to college with is headed on this World Race "mission trip." A lot of us are disgusted with her expectation that we will help pay for her vacation. Call it what she wants, it is nothing more than a vacation around the world. Most mission trips, in fact, are nothing more than exotic vacations. If she-who-will-remain-nameless wanted to really help people, she would pick ONE place and spend those 11 months there, making relationships with people and finding tangible, actually useful ways to help them out. Instead, she wants to go on vacation, have other people pay for it, and use it as an excuse to brag about what a "good Christian" she thinks she is. :roll:

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You can tell I'm in California, land of the Catholic Missions. I read the thread title and immediately thought, 'Tourists? Other than teachers and 4th Graders studying California History?'

The whole missionary thing has always bugged me. Even as a kid I thought it the height of arrogance to go in somewhere with the express purpose of changing their religious beliefs. Smacks of Cultural Imperialism. The religious in the family would surely not agree with me. But then, I'm the heathen of the family.

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My thought exactly! That was a good book, highly recommend it if people haven't read it, touches on a lot of the things we discus here. Thinking of it, have we ever had a thread to recommend books to each other, specifically when we find something about faith, religion, family, gender roles and such?

Uh, I need to write more posts, 75 is a lot ya'll :-)

If we are talking book reccomendations has anyone read Janet Reitman's: Inside Scientology America's Most Secretive Religion? I read it a couple months back and enjoyed it. I have the Poisonwood Bible at home, but haven't started it yet. Currently reading Stay Awake by Dan Chaon which is really good.

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The Poisonwood Bible is awesome--also great insights on the South, which is discussed a lot here, thanks to the Duggars, Bates, etc.

Speaking of missionaries, I've often wondering why one of the Duggar girls hasn't been allowed to go to Central America to work at one of the missions that they visit almost every year.

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This reminds me of this horrible woman I know here in Sydney. Her husband is very obviously in the closet but she doesn't seem to realize it, and she goes to a Pentacostal church where they believe that they are the only church that actually worships Christ. She is nasty and extremely, openly judgemental about anyone who doesn't go to her church and she is just everything I hate about fundies (although she's actually probably fundie-lite). She also went on a "mission trip" to Mozambique, which she mentions constantly. Actually, the first time I met her, she asked me where I've travelled; and I told her that I've been to Europe, throughout North America, Latin America and French Polynesia. She responded by saying, "Well I went on a mission trip to Mozambique!", before launching into a spiel about many people she "saved", and how you haven't seen the world until you've seen the true poverty "those people" live in. It was obvious that the experience was very self-serving for her, since she left those people in the same poverty they were already in, but now she gets to go home to her cushy life in Australia and pat herself on the back for all of her "good deeds". Her "Mozambique" album on Facebook is also filled with head shots of her in cornrows and traditional clothing. She, and anybody who takes part in these kinds of "mission trips" are disgusting.

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I have known several people who have gone short mission trips. Most of them have their trips partially funded through church fundraisers. Some of them aren't really annoying when it comes to their trips. This 11 month/11 country mission trip sounds awful.

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If you google "World Race Vacation" you will find all kinds of blog entries from past participants where they whine "WAH!! People say I'm just going on vacation!" Then they list reasons why it's not vacation-"I have to sleep in a tent!" "I have to carry all my gear on my back!" "I don't get to use a real shower every day!" That's called CAMPING. And camping is a vacation.

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Nice dose of racism in those descriptions. "Witch doctors?" Something tells me they wouldn't experience the same level of "satanic activity" and "spiritual warfare" in, say, Idaho. A quick browse of Wikipedia shows that the majority of Mozambique citizens are Christian already.

I don't know about Idaho -- lotsa Mormons here and there, if not in my bit of it so much. And fundie opinions of Mormons are...low. At the best of times.

Though it's very very white in general. Including the Mormons. (Ever see pictures or video of their big conferences? It's a bit creepy, all these old white-haired white men on stage. And I bet said men don't even know how weird that looks!)

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Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I actually went on one of these "mission trips" to Caracas, Venezuela when I was still a Christian. I went, as usual, using other people's money, but I at least had the decency to be disgusted by myself and the whole enterprise by the time I got back. I mean, they flew white kids literally thousands of miles to do work on churches, while every day in the city we walked past throngs of young men who were out of work. They took us to work with an orphanage (a beautiful, very well-run Christian orphanage) to work with the kids there. We went to the college to "recruit" students with our fabulous English to the church there. Oh, and we went to the National Park and the beach.

Even if you're thoroughly convinced that other cultures live in "sin" (and this experience definitely contributed to educating me that they do not), there's still absolutely no justification for this sort of sham. You're not "helping" that much, and to the extent that you are helping, you're wasting resources. All those fundraisers? Why didn't we send it the local church to hire locals? Was it really worth several thousand dollars to play with brown kids and seduce students with our alluring Americaness? The whole thing was a crock, and that, along with misogyny, eventually led me to question Christianity.

On the plus side, I got an up-close lesson in church politics and I seriously caught the travel bug. But it came at the cost of a lot of guilt for spending well-meaning church members money to party. Now, my husband and I still travel, but on our own dime, and in a way that is respectful of other cultures. We spend money on tourism, so that other places can show us the best of what they have to offer, instead of humble-bragging by roughing it.

Short term missons make me livid now, but whenever I hear of someone I know who goes, I try to catch up with them later to see if they learned any of the lessons I did, and to encourage them to keep thinking about it, instead of glossing over any problems.

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I had a high school friend who went on the World Race after college graduation. It was something that she really wanted to do, but most of her friends and family were really concerned throughout the experience.

The 'Racers' have about a week of training that takes place about a month before they leave on their eleven month trip. They camp out, learn basic culture, do team building activities, and learn how to prostilitize. That's it, after that week they are considered to be 'trained' enough to be sent to off.

They don't need all of the money upfront, just a percent of it (I want to say less than half?) A lot of the kids are sponsored through their home churches, but they spend a lot of the time they are online begging for money. Most of the participants leave without knowing how they will pay for the full trip and have to figure that out while gone. If a participant doesn't get fully sponsored, the group claims that they will be sent home, but that they haven't had to do that yet.

Once abroad, they aren't allowed to get any mail or packages from family, except medication, and are in areas with very spotty and infrequent Internet access. Their isolation definitely encourages the crazy. All they hear is how great they are and how Godly their mission is. They don't understand that their short term missions probably aren't truly helping anyone.

They are also put in pretty dicey situations during the mission- for at least 2 of the eleven months my friend and her group were sent to a developing country without a plan. The point was to pray to Jesus and he would provide housing and their monthly mission, but it didn't really work that way.

My friend seems to think that it was this amazing experience and she really changed lives, but there is no evidence that the World Mission has made any positive impact- just that they have sent an ever changing cast of overexuberant poverty tourists into places that are desperate for stability.

There is a lot more to it, but I have a really poor opinion of the whole World Race group and their other subsidiaries. They sending these kids into pretty serious situations with little to no information and very few options for leaving if they become overwhelmed.

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To be fair, these types of trips can actually serve a purpose. However, that purpos is NOT to make a huge, lasting difference in the lives of those they visit. It frequently makes a lasting difference in the lives of the ones who do the traveling. It's HARD to step outside your culture, your understanding, and your background and see what the rest of the world is REALLY like. A regular vacation is simply not going to give you that. You have to experience it to really GET IT. Those who do get it have a tendency to have a more global citizen outlook for the rest of their lives. So, I don't completely write off short-term mission work.

The issue is the evangelism type trips. First it's old school missions, which is wrought with ethnocentrism in the first place. Second, the organizations that truly GET the global citizen thing rarely do evangelism missions, so going with those who did by it's very nature means the organizations tend towards being incredibly condescending and disruptive to the lives of the locals they interact with. That is a HUGE problem, plain and simple. I'm not proud to admit that as a teen I did one of these caliber of trips. I spent a summer showing the Jesus Film on the Amazon River. That is NOT about changing lives.

However, I've done a multitude of other short term mission projects that I AM proud to be associated with. I've traveled to remote jungles of Honduras where my civil engineer brother designed and taught the village locals how to build suspension bridges. It took nearly a year to arrange that trip, including having to send plans down with supplies for the footers on the bridge and the locals had to build them before we got there AND calling in pairs of delegates from the colalition of villages in the surrounding area so that the technology was being taught to at least a dozen villages so they could ALL go home and build suspension bridges. That trip came about because my father took a dental trip to the jungle and learned that no one in the area knew how to build suspension bridges and their boards and posts were washing away with the spring floods every year.

I've taken part of multiple dental and medical short term missions. Medical trips can be far less in making a long-term difference, but they DO make a difference. However, you have not truly understood the world until you travel to a remove village and watch HUNDREDS of people line up and stand all day long for days just to have their rotten teeth pulled out and their pain relieved. I'll stand proud of that work for the rest of my life because it DOES make a difference for people.

I've gone to remove villages to build dry latrines and eco stoves, which burn very little wood to help households not deforrest the surrounding area and not have to sacrifice properly cooked food and head because of the fuel costs. Dry latrines are pure genuis, developed by UNICEF and promoted as the best latrine system for self sustaining usage. Once again, both of those projects were to bring a helping hand and to TEACH the technology so it could be passed on for others.

I've gone repeatedly to build sheds, barns, and set up training centers for Heifer Project. I'm sorry, but I don't think ANYONE can argue that Heifer Project is not making a difference in this world, and despite the secular support it IS a Christian mission organization. While providing labor to set up their training centers, where they bring their village leaders to teach them how to care for the animals, they always took us TO villages so as Americans *we* could see quite clearly the difference the programs make for the local communities. I spent a summer as a teen working in the Pork Chop district of San Fran, volunteering in homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries. I've worked in disaster clean up after floods and natural disasters.

When I was a kid, my dad spent years in mission work training indegenious church leaders in leadership and theology, from communities that ASKED for training. The entire concept was that you worked yourself OUT of a job and created self sustainability, pretty much the same concept that Heifer Project works under. There is evangalistic oriented missions, and there is service oriented missions. SERVICE in this world DOES make a different. Peace Corp makes a difference. Social missions make a difference. When they are done with respect of the local community and religious beliefs, they are an excellent concept. I've workd with Mennonite and Quaker missions. They don't go around evangelizing and they don't provide support and care with a requirement that you listen to their religion at the same time. Mennonite Central Committee is the first to enter disaster regions in the US and the last to leave. Ask ANYONE in the US who has survived a natural disaster and they know exactly who MCC is. MCC does NOT evangelize, they simply provide service--and they don't want recognition for it either. They are STILL sending teams to do clean up and restoration from Katrina. It never, ever comes with a dose of preaching, that violates their service agreements.

Those types of missions, whether short term or long term are valuable. Sometimes short term's main value is in how it changes the first world participant and NOT how it changes the ones in poverty, because changing the rich man's worldview has long-term change on his policies, understanding and how he spends his money. Short term missions should NOT allow these mission tourism that does harm to the local communities, but there IS value in opening someone's eyes to what the REAL world looks like, so long as in doing so there is absolutely respect and not a heaping serving of religion being shoved down the throats of those around them. I suspect this 11 month nonsense is NOT providing that life change in *that* format. However, I would send my children with a Mennonite short term mission any day because they are structured completely differently. Long term missions that are service oriented and a process of living your faith versus procaiming your faith can have as much value as Doctors Without Borders or Peace Corp. Most missions are that way, most Baptist missionaries are frightening and disgusting in their approach to "saving the world" nonsense.

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A long vacation does the same thing for the tourist.

But you can't get churches and friends to pay for your long vacation. And you don't get any Jesus points.

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