I have personally heard every one of these, but from my vantage point, these all represent bad advice…
- Don't prepare, just come ready to be led by the Spirit. Truth: Ok, there is a balance between preparation and being Spirit led. I firmly believe that you must be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading, but I also firmly believe that to be most effective you must plan well. Be strategic. We have all heard it, if you don’t plan well, you are planning to fail. Prepare your heart/spirit. Prepare your schedule. Prepare by studying the geography, people, culture, language where you will be serving.
- Bring lots do stuff to help the nationals (candy, equipment, dollar bills to hand out, clothes, supplies, as much stuff as you can fit in your 50ish lb suitcase, even purchase extra bags). Truth: Careful with this one. I am not saying it’s always wrong to bring stuff (if done well it can be great), but please avoid being Santa Claus. Instead, be Jesus. Even though you mean well in your giving, you may actually be confusing those who you are visiting. Are you bringing the gift of love, the Good News and encouragement, or are you bringing stuff? Let’s not confuse the message by allowing stuff to get in the way. Be generous, just be careful with what you are being generous with, and how you are generous with it. Your host missionaries will be helpful in navigating this. I would ALWAYS recommend that your giving of stuff be through a local church. It’s the local church that knows who is in need, how to give, what is really needed, how to give stuff redemptively (for the sake and benefit of the Gospel), etc.
- Call the nationals “Natives” with your mouth of with your heart. Truth: The term “Native” typically includes the sense of being under-developed, unsophisticated, uncultured and inferior. This just is not true. You are not superior. In fact, many would argue that it is the opposite. Come with an open heart posture, open mind, assume you know and understand little. Listen and lean hard into your field missionaries. They will help you bridge the gap between your culture and your host culture.
- Do something before listening Truth: Assume you don’t understand. Listen lots before you act. Before you act, listen some more. Ask questions. After you are done listening, listen to your host missionaries. Plan with thoughtful humility. We encourage you to use every moment strategically, but remember that some of the most fruitful times of life transformation is during down time.
- Don’t worry about dressing like your host culture. Truth: Early missionaries imported “the way Christians are supposed to dress”. In my opinion, this wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t true contextualization. But, the church is learning. As a short term missionary, it’s not your job to change the culture. In fact, assume you don’t understand the culture, let alone knowing it well enough to seek to change the culture. instead, it’s your job to do the best you can to honor the culture in the short time that you are here.
- Think short term strategic impact and then get out and go somewhere else. Truth: We should be focused on long term impact. We care about eternity, right!? True transformation comes through steadfast, committed, relational, Gospel filled long term partnerships. The Gospel is not only about evangelism. The Gospel is so much more. One should not share the Good News, and then move on thinking you are done.
- Bring LOTS of snacks to eat to supplement the local food you will eat. Plan to eat snails and monkey brains! Truth: You will likely eat great! At least here in Haiti, don’t come planning to lose weight.
- Don't ask too many questions. Your host missionaries are tired of answering the same questions over, and over, and over, and over, and over... Truth: We are here to assist you, answer your questions, to be the bridge between 2 people, and yes, to even answer your
- Don’t worry about the missionaries on the field, they have lots of support from others and they don’t really need you. Truth: This couldn’t be further from the truth. We are sometimes/always under-resourced, fatigued, stressed, under-supported, discouraged, etc.
- Just Stay home and let the professional long term missionaries do the work. Truth: You can’t accomplish the same things by sending money and watching the NatGeo channel. Your life will forever be transformed as you yourself place your feet on the field, develop cross-cultural relationships, do collaborative shoulder to shoulder ministry/projects, learn from other cultures, see what life is like in the rest of the world, get your hands dirty, hug the economically poor, worship with the spiritually rich.
Jesus says Go. I say Come.
There are many more, and so much more to share on the above. But, it had to be Top 10, right?!