In cities all over America, young people are hearing the call to service. Short-term missions is booming. Kids who’ve never picked up a hammer are traveling to Mexico to help build church buildings and houses. They’ll learn to paint, pound a nail, and perhaps even mud a house.
Meanwhile, in the American teenagers’ suburban neighborhoods, Mexican men paint their homes and mow the grass the teenagers otherwise would be cutting.
Something’s odd about that . . . this observation from a radio host in Nashville brings up some interesting questions about short-term missions:
- Are short-term missions for those in the traveling group, for the people in the host area, or both?
- Short-term groups feel empowered by building something, but did they empower the hosts?
- Were there builders locally who lost an opportunity for a job while Americans built the house or building?
Last weekend I spoke at the Global Missions Conference and had a good conversation in my session with about 15 others who are interested or doing short-term missions. I’m working on a book on short-term missions with Anne-‘Geri Fann that will be a survival guide for groups going on short-term trips. We hope to have it out by Spring 06.
I told my brother and cousin, both builders, that Extreme Home Makeover is one of the best of the reality shows, best on television. They both scoffed! I said the show makes me emotional nearly every time I get to see it. Like the time they rebuilt a house for a man blinded by a gunshot wound to the eyes . . . they used some rock from the previous house hearth and used it to create textures for different rooms in the house. Turns out the man and his father had picked that rock out when the house was build twenty some years earlier.
What my brother and cousin said was that “reality” television creates a perception that renovating or building is easy, fast, and not expensive. People now come in expecting unique houses or renovations, armed with pictures and projects they’ve seen on HGTV or shows like Extreme Home Makeover. Expectations are high for quality and unique builds but many don’t realize the difference between a show that has a staff of builders and designers of 100+ and the reality of building and what it takes to work and money it takes to build.
Well, that’s another perspective, and a helpful one. One of my professors, likely repeating a business principle he’d learned somewhere, said nothing can be all of three things: good, fast, and cheap. If it’s good, it’s probably not going to be cheap or fast. If it’s fast, it’ll probably be expensive. It it’s cheap, you’ll probably get what you paid for.
I’m sitting at my desk after my first day of work at Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa. I’ve never had a more smooth and enjoyable first day on a job. The staff is very kind and helpful. We had two staff meetings then the office staff briskly helped me get set up with phone, computer connection, keys, entry codes, directories and databases, tours.
Several expressed concerns about content of our first staff meeting, since it dealt with issues of communication and conflict and how to love one another in the church and problems that exist, and my response was that as long as I’ve been around people, we have conflict and that I’m not shocked and certainly expect this and appreciate that they are not trying to sweep problems under the carpet.
I’m sitting at the folding table that’s my desk (in storage in Tennessee till moving van comes with household goods when our house is ready in September), typing on laptop, with phone, planner, Bible, an in and out box, a church directory. Went to visit an elder’s 91-year-old brother who recently had brain surgery to relieve swelling after a fall. Getting acquainted and connecting with leadership, staff, and the rest of the congregation is key right now in early months. So simplicity of no books and empty files and bookshelves serves me right now. It’s refreshing and puts me in the relationship frame of mind and heart where I want to be.
Tonight it’s off to fish with a dentist in the congregation. Bow fishing. Maybe I’ll give you a short report on that later.
The family is doing fine. Children are adjusting and being with cousins last week softened the blow of moving. Enjoyed very much last week where, as Jill put it, our biggest worry was keeping enough sunscreen on.