Does Helping Hurt? – Day 1 in Honduras

I am in Honduras this week at Faith Home – a place for orphaned Honduran children to live with a family, growing in faith and stature.

Our team of 17 will serve the families of Faith Home and those in the surrounding villages by giving them clothing, toiletries, rice, and beans.

As we traveled yesterday, I talked with people from other mission teams.  (All those matching shirts made the mission teams obvious:).  Jamaica, Mongolia, and, Honduras were just a few of the destinations.

Sitting in the Houston airport I felt my attitude going south both literally and figuratively.  Anxious to get to Honduras because I feel called by God to this country and these people, but wondering about mission work and money spent on travel.

I started doing the math.

Our team of 17 (at $1,350 each).  The team going to Jamaica (21 at a similar price).  Two other teams arrived in Honduras with us. That’s a LOT of travel dollars.

Instead of spending about $50,000 on travel, why didn’t we send the money to the locals and allow them to purchase and distribute these needed items?

I knew immediately this attitude was coming from some recent reading.  After reading The Gospel Coalition’s blog on short-term missions, I read When Helping Hurts.  Both of these pieces provide convincing evidence in response to this question:

Can “helping” in another country actually “hurt” the country and its people?

“I have seen with my own eyes or know of houses in Latin America that have been painted 20 times by 20 different short-term teams; fake orphanages in Uganda erected to get Westerners to give money; internet centers in India whose primary purpose is to ask Westerners for money; children in African countries purposefully mutilated by their parents so they would solicit sympathy while they beg; a New England-style church built by a Western team in Cameroon that is never used except when the team comes to visit; and slums filled with big-screen TVs and cell phone towers.”

And, THAT is just the opening quote of the blog.

Someone anonymously paid for my trip to Honduras.  Am I being a good steward of his/her donation?   Should I have stayed at home and sent that $1,300 to purchase rice and beans for more Hondurans?

While that may seem like a simple “yes” after reading the Gospel Coalition’s blog or a book like When Helping Hurts, answers and God’s ways are never that simple.

Sure, we can discuss economics; in fact, that’s wise.  We certainly must steward God’s money well.  However, I often find when we view God’s work through the lens of business and economics, we lose sight of Him.

We simply need to follow.

Last night at our welcome meeting, our host said that he often hears people say it’s a waste of money to come as a short-term missionary.  It’s more cost effective to send the money.  He continued by saying that’s simply not true.  We never know what connection is made or lesson is learned that might change the missionary’s life or the lives of local people.

God does not work in a box that we’ve created (otherwise known as culture).  He can and will work in and through all the short -term missionaries I met yesterday and serve with today in ways that I cannot fathom.

He is a sovereign God, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” in Mark 16:15 and then in Matthew 28: 19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

What will God do in and through those on mission trips in Honduras and other countries this week?  I have no idea.  As the pastor, Saul, said to us last night, “Have hearts open to his work this week.”  I pray my heart is open, ready, and willing.

I see the long-term impact of the mission work we are doing here.  (More on that work tomorrow.)

Our team t-shirt has this verse on the back:

“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5

Where ever you are in the world today, whatever work God has for you, simply follow his call to spread the gospel.  Leave it to God to do something in your day, in your life, and in the lives of others that is unbelievable.

Don’t box God in.  His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).  We don’t see the full tapestry because we are only one thread.  But, all the threads are essential – including you!


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