Lots of people think when you go off to be a missionary and work with children or, excuse me, I’m going to cringe because I hate this term……”love on” people……that rainbows and unicorns are going to start popping up beside candy flavored mushrooms and the smell of roses will waft in your wake.
Ministry, REAL ministry, the bible believing loving and walking people through good and hard times ministry, the pointing them to Jesus, and hold on because this is really hard, HOLDING PEOPLE TO ACCOUNTABILITY AND A STANDARD OF INTEGRITY ministry is a lot different. Ministry is always difficult. It’s always messy because you are dealing with people, life, sin and good or bad intentions.
I think social media has a tendency to either reinforce the fantasy of unicorns or can tear up good intentions and leave them dripping in cynicism. How can one photo really explain a relationship? Can a blog post or status update ever truly give someone who’s not there an adequate idea of the poster’s reality? It can’t. But some people start believing because they want or need to believe that those candy flavored mushrooms are there in the background just waiting to be picked and eaten.
The instagram account, “Barbie Savior” is a satirical account of Barbie’s short term, multiple trips to Africa to save the children. And I admit when I stumbled across it, I laughed til I cried….and then laughed some more and then cried some more…..It. is. hysterical. period.
I laughed because we have all been there and those of us who have been there know that some people stay there. The first missions trip is about emotion, passion, the desire to make a difference in the world. I still feel it. But the difference for those of us who made the decision to move overseas, is that we grew past the innocence, learned the language, and thankfully, if not painfully, came to terms with not just the things that touched us positively on our first few mission trips, but also learned about the ugly side of the culture. It’s otherwise known as, reality. It’s the stuff you only learn by living long term and getting involved in the daily grind of life in another culture. I can explain it as the difference between a long term relationship where you see every side of a person, their strengths, weaknesses, the good and bad, as opposed to spending time together on short dates where you work hard to impress each other and cover up your faults. The former is real love. A more real, gritty and intimate kind of love. But one that lasts for a longer period of time.
The intimacy of living together, with your own culture that’s inside you and the culture you are walking around in, is the key to building relationships and ministry that makes an impact on the world. There is a difference between visiting an orphanage and passing out gifts, and waving goodbye to the kids afterwards and taking an orphan under your wing and helping them transition to real life. The first is easy, there is little commitment. It makes you feel super good. The second requires commitment, vision, and guts. It requires growth and change.
I guess what I’m trying to say is we won’t end up like Barbie Savior if we keep growing. If God calls you to short term mission trips, check your heart because chances are he’s calling or preparing you for a longer commitment. Don’t be afraid of the commitment or the intimacy of doing ministry long term. Don’t settle for passing out material gifts when you can give deeper and more precious spiritual gifts to people. In this summer season of short term mission trips, don’t settle for just the easy ministry. Ask God what is really going on and what is he really trying to show you. Why are you doing short term trips and not serving him full time? Why are you not committing to long term ministry. How could you and your ministry grow if you decide to MOVE to where your ministry is instead of just visiting it? How can you get more intimate with the culture you love? Where is your comfort zone now? Are you really helping the nationals with your quick visits? What do they need long term that you can’t give visiting for a short term?
Just make sure you don’t become a Barbie Savior. Or I’m gonna laugh at you!
Here’s a great blog post on Barbie Savior: “The Danger Of Being A Barbie Savior”