The idea begins in youth group.
Perhaps it’s never been done in this church before. Perhaps it’s an annual event. The youth pastor/youth minister brings the idea forward. Reveals the destination.
Gasps from the senior high group, and maybe even the junior high group — if a group that young is allowed to join in.
Excitement! Anticipation! A mental swirling dervish of all the amazing and brilliant and fun things that will happen in that week!
And then the youth minister talks about why that destination was chosen: beauty of the landscape, historical relevance, opportunities that can be accomplished while there, the broken people at the destination who need Jesus…
So… Many… Positives…
*This post will be controversial. That’s okay. I’m still going to type and upload.*
The Church Youth Group Mission Trip.
Guatemala. Mexico. Russia. Haiti. Thailand. Jamaica. Poland. Belize. Cuba. The streets of Dallas, of New York City, of New Orleans.
And what actually happens on these trips? Yes, youth group members go to these places and tell people about Jesus. And these youth, barely able to articulate their own faith journeys are asking people:
“Have you heard of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ?”
“Do you know about the loving grace of God?”
Or my favorite chestnut:
“If you died today, would you go to heaven or hell?”
The youth minister hypes up the trip with the idea that they are going to bring more people into the loving grace of salvation. These lost and wounded and hurting people…. All they need is Jesus…. Jesus is the reason for the season and all that…
And when the bubbling youth group descends on the country and goes into the city, the neighborhood, the homes of the people, what happens? They are shocked at the poverty. Horrified at the living conditions. Longing for the ac or heating. Relieved for getting all those vaccinations before the trip.
Are the interactions with the indigenous people wonderful? Perhaps.
Do they learn new songs and recipes and words/phrases? Sure.
Do they take tons of pictures of what they see and experience? Of course.
But here’s my problem with Evangelical Christianity, what has come about from my own unraveling:
What happens to the beautiful children and youth and adults of the mission field who have to resume their lives but don’t know how this “loving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God” actually works?! They prayed to be saved. They prayed to have Jesus come into their hearts. To save them from their sins. To save them from hell. To set a place for them at the Table of Life and prepare a House for them in their Father’s Mansion.
But they’re still stuck with their abusive uncle. But they’re still living in the same conditions. But they are still homeless. But their mom still has cancer. But they’re still living with their older brother who likes little girls. And they are still dealing with the ugliness of the world that did not get the same story of Jesus that they did. And they don’t know how this grace thing works. And they still like the drink, the drugs, the thrill of the steal.
And now, this Mission Trip Youth Group is gone. Back to their beautiful homes, never to be heard from again. Those shining faces, the crying eyes, told them life would be different. The joy of the Lord would be their strength. If they call upon the Lord, they would be saved. And being saved is the only thing needed.
The remnants of this Youth Group’s Mission Trip are left with questions and doubts: They don’t know how to “do” this Christian thing. They don’t know what to expect. They don’t remember the songs they were taught. They don’t know how to read/understand the instruction manual they were given. And these doubts turn to fear: What if I did it wrong when I asked Jesus into my heart? What if I said it wrong? What if I was holding something back that I didn’t know about? What if I’ll never have what those bright, shiny faces of that Youth Group had? And the fear turns to anger: I don’t know that God. I keep doing what those kids told me to do, but my life hasn’t changed. They said it would change, would be different. But I’m in the same problems as I was before they came here.
Bah! Who needs him?!
*Don’t think I don’t see the White Colonialism.
*Don’t think I don’t see the White Privilege.
*Don’t think I don’t see the Christian Supremacy.
*Don’t think I don’t see the perpetuation of Racism.
Why are you so cynical?
I’m not cynical. I’m realistic.
I believe bringing people to the love of God is much more than “fire insurance” and involves intense compassion and longer-term physical presence. We should not be playing Ding, Dong, Dash with emotional, mental, and spiritual well being.