On Tuesday, I traveled with thirteen people from the church where I serve as pastor to Haiti. This is my sixth trip, and I have learned much on each one. Some trips have been better than others, and this trip will be no exception. We are at the close of the second day, so it is too early to say how it will turn out. Will this be the best? Worst? Or, different in its own unique way? In some ways, the answer will always be 'yes' to all three questions.
One big difference about this trip is our approach. We have done short term mission projects poorly in the past. I can look at one trip with a particularly critical eye. We perpetuated a cycle of dependency and poverty of self-sufficiency by flying down and doing physical work that a local person could have done better. The latter approach would have cost us less and provided work for a Haitian.
Each time I take a group on a mission trip, I have the group read a book and discuss it as part of our preparation for the trip. My favorite has always been Lingenfelter's Ministering Cross-Culturally. This book is effective at teaching people who have not traveled very much about what it will be like when they are in a different culture, and it helps readers understand why different is not necessary bad.
This trip, I decided to use a different book. I chose the conservative-evangelical When Helping Hurts. Several people who are very close to me have recommended it. It was an eye-opening experience. The group was quite convicted that we probably should not have spent the $15k+ on the trip, but instead invested the money in the orphanage. The group was also conflicted. Eight of the fourteen had been the previous year and were very excited to be going back. They love the children and could not wait to see them. Their Facebook pages celebrated the homecoming-of-sorts when we reached the orphanage.
Conflict comes from knowing the truth, yet holding fast to old ways of thinking and acting. I come to Haiti with a new vision, one of listening, one of openness, one of looking to find out how I can serve. I come praying to be able to help and not hurt.