In our ministry days in the States, Casey and I led many… MANY mission trips with both youth and adults. MANY.
Before we moved here I was leading about 6 mission trips a year. I LOVED being in other cultures and teaching people how to engage the poor and broken. And I was slowly accepting that it was time to just move my butt over to Africa.
NOW we are on the OTHER side of mission trips. Since we LIVE in Ocean View, a previously disadvantaged area, we see people in and out of this community doing various acts of ministry and service. It feels DIFFERENT being on the other side of missions.
This past month we had a mission team visit our church in Ocean View from Anchorage, Alaska for a two week mission trip. We weren’t able to participate in many of the activities, but I watched from afar and listened to the responses both from my Ocean View friends and our Alaskan visitors. The trip was filled with projects and meetings and dinners and singing and LOTS of laughter. The church from Alaska deeply blessed our Ocean View community and there will be lasting imprints left.
However, not all missions begin and end with the right heart and vision. I don’t know much, but just a few thoughts about what it SHOULD look like when you bring WHITE PEOPLE into the HOOD.
Top Five Tips on Bringing WHITE PEOPLE TO THE HOOD
1. The Poor Don’t NEED You To Save Them
When I first moved to Ocean View I was shocked when no one brought out the welcome wagon to greet us. I mean here we were, the amazing Americans coming to save those in need in Ocean View!! I can still hear the dramatic music in my head… And… No one cared that we were there. We only made them suspicious and confused. They had only been hurt and oppressed by white people, so if anything, they had less inclination to let me into their world. In their eyes, they were fine and didn’t need me to save them. They still don’t need me. They need Jesus. And actually people ALL OVER THE WORLD, from the richest of rich to the poorest of poor need Jesus. They don’t need you. So don’t be shocked when they don’t roll out the red carpet. Your job is to roll out the red carpet for THEM.
2. Missions must be about RELATIONSHIPS
Often mission teams come in ready with projects and goals and only learn a little bit about the people and history. I can relate, that is exactly what I use to be focused on as well. You feel that God has blessed you with so much and you want to share as much as you can while you are on a mission trip. But again , it’s not about you. Maybe what the poor need isn’t your projects and your progress but YOU. Be available, have conversations, ask questions. People LOVE to talk about themselves all over the world. Get to know them and even share about your own heart.
3. Ask the locals HOW TO DO IT.
When we come into a new environment as missionaries, we often insist on doing things OUR WAY. This is how we build it, this is how we see it, this is what projects we want to do, and this is how it will all go. What if you came into a mission environment and asked the people there FIRST what to do? What do they want to see accomplished? What are their dreams? How do they usually fix problems? How would they like you to handle a situation? Not only will you engage the locals but you will also learn something new! What works in America might not work all over the world!
4. CELEBRATE the relationships
Many mission trips have a celebration night at the end where praise is given to the volunteers and all the work they accomplished. Often those serving stand up and share about how ‘difficult’ various parts of the trip were and how hard they worked. What if you instead celebrated the people THERE? For the Ocean View community, this last group of people came into their homes and shared two weeks of working and learning together. To build relationships is hard, and when it happens it should be shared. What if you celebrated the relationships made, how the people there served you, and what you learned about them. Celebrate the people not the projects. Celebrate THEM not you.
5. Change your language. Make your trip less of a ‘mission’ and more of a ‘pilgramage’
A pilgramage is “a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion.” What if your trip was about journeying alongside the people you were serving? Learning about their home, their lives, their hearts. Just learning from them not giving to them. What if you went looking for what God was already doing there rather than what you were going to do yourselves? God is alive there and if you look for Him, He will blow you away.
So yeah, keep bringing the white people into the hood. But make it NOT about the white people and ALL about the hood. We all have so much to learn from one another.