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Short-Term Missions Done Differently

Updated: Aug 4, 2018

At The Pucusana Project we do Short-Term Mission trips a little differently and here is why.

Did you know that statistically short-term missions have had an over-all negative impact in 3rd world countries, especially in poverty alleviation? This may be shocking to you but sadly still remains true. There are many reasons for this and only a few will be briefly addressed in this post, so if you have not already done so, we highly recommend reading the books "When Helping Hurts & Helping Without Hurting In Short-Term Missions” by Steve Corbett and Brain Fikkert before taking your next STM trip.

Below are some of the facts listed from their books:

  • 1.6 million US Adults travel internationally on STM's (2 week trips) yearly

  • Costing anywhere around $2-6,000 per person

  • Meaning 2.2 billion dollars is spent in just travel, lodging and food EVERY YEAR

  • Leading to the conclusion that money spent on STM’s is not being utilized to its best abilities. Here's an example: A house in Honduras cost $2,000 to build locally, but a STM team of 18 people spend $30,000 on their trip to go to Honduras in order to build one house. That money could have been raised, given to the local ministry and spent on 15 homes (creating more local employment) instead on the STM group visiting.

  • STM groups cost a lot in time and energy on the local ministry when visiting (housing, food, transportation, entertainment, safety and translators)

  • STM groups often bring materials goods and offer programs during their short visits that are not usually offered by the local ministry. Long-term, this hurts the local ministry when offering their own programs that are not so “grand” and negatively affects them gaining regular attendees

  • Small percentages of people returning from STM’s experience any real spiritual growth or heart change that has a life-changing impact

  • Almost all cross-culture relationships made over the STM trip do not last for longer than a few months after the STM team returns home

  • While STM’s are on the rise, long-term missionaries are not even though they are in higher demand

STM’s have sadly become more about “traveling and experiencing” different cultures or enforcing 1st World agendas; than they are about actually alleviating poverty and making disciples of all nations. Believe it or not, STM trips have enabled poverty to continue. This is because they only offer material help for a limited time. You must understand that the material poor have already lost so much and have faced abandonment in many ways; so the Christian Church in regards to STM's needs to look differently to make a true impact for the Kingdom. We cannot just keep showing up, passing out material goods and then leaving. As desperate as the poor may be for shelter, food, cloths or toiletries, material possessions are not what they actually need. The sad fact of the matter is that STM's cannot even begin to enter into the spiritual hurt and emotional pain of the local people the way the local, currently present ministry can.

Simply put, the Christian Church needs to reevaluate how they are doing STM’s and consider that sacrificing for the Great Commission may not mean going on a missions trip but instead means writing a check that empower reputable organizations and local ministries to continue their long-term highly relational Christian work. Those ministries enter into long-term, through thick and thin, relationships with the people to show the power of Christ and bring about real poverty relief. This kind of help takes a lot of time, time STM's can't give.

With that said, STM's are still incredible important and can have great impact for the Kingdom when done correctly. That is why The Pucusana Project does STM’s differently.

We do not build homes. We do not give financial or material handouts. We do not let our teams provide their own programs, food, cloths or toiletries. We do not give “relief” to the people, we help “develop” WITH the people. We help enable the materially poor through encouraging their already God-given talents and skills, not by making them entitled. We follow the “Learn, Encourage, Enable” STM model. This means our STM trips will spend much of their time learning about the culture, practicing encouragement and then enabling the locals to make positive changes themselves. We believe sharing the Good News is only accomplished by humbly experiencing the unfortunate situations of the poor and meeting the people where they are at, not where we want them to be. 

We do STM’s in the way that best supports our partner ministries and the community. We take small teams to limit our impositions on our local partners for housing, food and transportation. We also plan our trips during the cheapest times of the year to limit money spent to attend. These small groups spend two-weeks working either in our local school or with our local partners on projects already in place that benefit the community. We believe in only doing STM’s when they support the long-term alleviation process that the local Christian ministry has already begun.

Matthew 28:19-20:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, 

baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We believe “making disciples” is accomplished solely through relationships and therefor all our STM’s are relational based. No matter the project or programs our STM’s are participating in, they are doing it with the locals, making relationships that can enable conversations about Christianity. And while STM’s are literally “short-term”, we deeply encourage our attendees to continue long-term relationships with the locals through social media when their trip is complete.

Another benefit to how we do STM’s is that they are designed to impact not only the locals but also the people on our teams as well. We have debrief, devotional, worship and prayer time every night with our groups to help them process through the poverty they are witnessing. We teach about culture differences and how to best help poverty through a humble heart, within the means already provided. We also challenge our groups to experience God love, peace and divine plan while witnessing the extreme suffering in the barrios. We do what we can to awaken spiritual truths about God to each individual in our groups and encourage them to live differently when they go home.

Lastly, The Pucusana Project takes “culture shock” very seriously knowing that each member of our group will react differently when entering and exiting a 3rd World country. We provided exit interviews and one-on-one couching to help our groups enter back into our overly materialistic, wealthy 1st World country.

The Pucusana Project is passionate about connecting cultures and making long-term Christian relationships through correctly done Short-Term Mission Trips and we hope that you will join us in doing so by supporting our cause or other ministries doing STM's in ways that support long-term alleviation too.


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