Tag Archives: praying pelican missions

responsible short term missions starts with humble leadership

any youth worker who has taken a group on a short-term missions trip has seen the way it has impacted the lives of teenagers. that’s why so many youth workers make these sorts of missions trips a key aspect of their programming. we want to be sensitive to cultural issues, and we don’t want to hurt the communities where we serve. but we tend to be pragmatists, and we get stoked about seeing our teenagers have their developmental narcissism poked, and seeing their worldview shaped.

i remember, with some embarrassment and regret, some of my earliest missions trips. i’m sure we did some good. and i’m sure there was some sort of impact on the lives of the junior highers i took. but, really, way too much of the trip was about us. i remember building tiny little homes (the sort that a group of junior highers was capable of building); and i remember being asked why we were building something so small. while i don’t think i could admit it at the time, i’m pretty sure our reasoning was more about what we could do (and how we could do it all on our own). there wasn’t any partnership, really, with the vision of a local church or even the family who would receive “our gift.” i remember mexico border town missions where we “led children to faith in jesus” who had certainly made the same “decision” every week during the summer, for each group of visiting gringos, who were obviously pleased (and deeply gratified) by the children’s learned responses.

but it doesn’t have to be that way.

i loved adam mclane’s post (adam is with me here in haiti) yesterday on this very subject. read his post When Helping Helps (it’s really good).

marko with youth workers

and i think i’ve learned this lesson. but it was great to see humble leadership in place today here in haiti. we’re with jim noreen, the haiti operations director for Praying Pelican Missions. they have 170 americans in haiti this week from a whole bunch of churches. they’re working on multiple sites, in multiple forms of ministry. today we’ll be joining a group who’s arriving from mississippi, and will be mostly with them for the next few days. but these first two days, we drove around with jim and visited all the other groups.

and here’s the math equation i saw working…

a visionary and humble local pastor + a missions organization committed to long term relationships of serving the local church’s agenda + a youth worker who’s committed to coming under the leadership of the local indigenous church leadership = great short term missions.

if any one of those first three components are missing or compromised, things go wrong very quickly. the teenagers themselves might not see the skew. they might still return home all charged up, full of great memories and stretched hearts. but the impact doesn’t really have a kingdom scent to it. and, the long term results will just be flat (in the lives of all involved).

the first two components are very much about choosing to work with the right missions organization. but the last one: well, that’s on us. today i had the privilege of meeting and hanging out with a handful of youth workers who “got it.” they set the tone for their groups in word and deed. it’s one thing to organize a trip. it’s another thing to constantly provide a model in word and deed of honoring and following (ooh, that’s a big one!) the local church leadership. our little american autonomous selves sometimes find it hard to put ourselves under someone else’s authority, particularly when we have a culture (including our church culture) that tells us that people with more stuff are of more value.

but that’s when things get really good, when we voluntarily set aside our preferences and assumptions and valuations, and place ourselves under the vision and leadership of local leadership. yeah: then this short term missions stuff can be a BIG WIN for the kingdom, and for everyone involved.

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impressions of haiti after three years

IMG_4556i arrived in haiti sunday morning, after more than three years since my last visit. we spent the day visiting a few missions teams, and seeing a handful of the ministry partners who work with Praying Pelican Missions.

while they did cover my expenses for being here, this bit is not a line they fed me or anything i’m writing out of obligation: i totally dig their approach and attitude. they are all about serving the local church, and seem meticulous in protecting that vision. it’s one thing to say, “we want to serve the local church,” but still have a “we white westerners know what you need” attitude; but the PPM staff seem to fully embrace an attitude of humility and “we are less.”

i’ll probably write more about the actual work we’re seeing on another day; but i want to return to my impressions upon returning. my first two visits to haiti were in february and may of 2010, closely on the heels of the earthquake. even though there was some evident progress made in those months, the situation in may of 2010 was still pretty bleak. while i have plenty of stories of individual haitians i met on those trips that have become part of my own story, the single image–or reality–that best summed up the complexities of those days was the image of a tent city.

IMG_0056these tent cities–mostly comprised of makeshift “tents,” not real tents–were everywhere. hundreds of thousands of people were living in them. and the living conditions were horrendous.

on the upside: almost all of the tent cities are gone now. i saw maybe three of them as we drove through port au prince and carrefour today. i’m sure there are plenty more than that, but it’s a fraction of what was. and all over the place, i saw construction and life.

that was encouraging.

but the realities of life here in the poorest country in the western hemisphere haven’t abated. and there’s zero debating this: they haven’t yet “recovered” from the destruction of the earthquake.

i’ve been to plenty of poor countries. and in one sense, any attempt to say which is better or worse is a waste of time: complex systems of poverty–whether you live in the poorest country in the western hemisphere, or the seventh poorest country in some other part of the world–are overwhelming.

one thing i’m looking forward to this week is getting a better sense of the haitian church’s identity post-earthquake. my sense had been, during those first trips here, that the haitian church struggled with figuring out her sense of self. i witnessed the church coming alive during those early post-earthquake months, stepping up with a sense of confidence in a lived-out gospel. it was great to meet a handful of church leaders today, and hear, over and over again, how they are all actively involved in loving their neighborhoods in significant and tangible ways.

so: hope is alive in haiti. but the work is far, far, far from over.

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