Book Review!

Forest Inslee and Angel Burns in this book on short-term missions state as their primary thesis:

“Not only are most short-term missions efforts are ineffective but are shown to cause damage to those they are meant to help.”

Their contention is that short-term mission groups are basically unhelpful because they are unable to get to know the people they come to serve, and are harmful resulting because of the class differences between the two groups. The”rich” people come in, do their thing, and leave. No relationship and no equality. There was a youth group, the cutest white kids one can find, came to Haight to witness for Jesus, and at noon, got on a bus to go to lunch down town at an expensive restaurant, and one of the guys on the street asked if he could go, and the response: “Accept Jesus, and one day he will help you be able to afford a decent meal.” That is harmful!

In the past, I  have hosted groups, but as they left, there was a feeling of using the guys I serve. The youth were always fun, and enjoyable, but they had their phones, and “toys”, always well dressed. When I worked with the youth directly I could enable them to find sameness in much of their journey with these guys.  But their leaders were afraid of the youth really getting to know them. As one said: “Our youth might get a disease, or be hurt physically.” That is ignorance from an adult!

The other aspect is the youth were tourists, they basically stayed in nice hotels and wanted much of ther time away doing tourist things. In fact, one group had me take them around the City.

Every group I have hosted have come from major cities: L.A., Chicago, etc., and when I suggested to their leaders they do mission trips at home and work out a long term plan to have work. The answer was always “no” they wanted to come to the magical city of California.

The authors sum up their work in these words which I agree with:

Real, practical, systematic transformation will happen only when STM practitioners at the grassroots level–both senders and hosts–have the courage to design entirely new approaches that fundamentally challenge the status quo.”

Frankly, short-term mission trips are ineffective and can be harmful. I no longer take short-term mission trips for that reason. The authors suggest groups come and live with the ones they are serving for several months and come to know them.

My suggestion is that churches in the United States look within their own community and area and find where people are impoverished and work with them on a regular, long term basis, and let their youth get a taste of real mission and pain people suffer. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T,

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