I wanted to provide a last post to lay down my thoughts about the trip and event as a whole. Without a doubt, I feel the mission was worth the time and money to visit the Navajo people and serve them, even if for a short time. Could we have done a lot more and been more efficient? Oh sure, hindsight is always 20/20. Would we have had the same cultural experience if we were more efficient … probably not. In all ways it was worth it, and I really hope I can return again some day.

Ironically, the Monday after I returned I found a post on a blog I casually read titled Are Short Term Missions a Waste of Money? In the post, Andrew addresses the Washing Post article, Churches Retool Mission Trips. I’d suggest taking a moment and reading those posts, they are both thought provoking.

I’m guessing this topic is an age old question that has been asked since missionary work was formed. I’m also guessing that people gave Paul a hard time about how far he traveled at such great expense of time and or money, only to get thrown out of a town on his butt. Is it a shame that Paul didn’t decide, “Hey, I can make a lot more impact at a lower cost of time and risk if I just focus on the local community?” In the Washing Post article, a Florida pastor was quoted in saying,

“It became too hard to justify the expense of flying the kids overseas”, Brinton said. “If you’re going to paint a church, you can do that in Florida as easily as you can in Mexico.”

Ouch. While I am sure it is easier to pant a church within a 5 mile drive of your house than one in Mexico, I think the cultural experience is going to be a bit different. The article sites some great examples of mismanaged mission efforts, and I agree that there are probably a decent number of trips that need to be canceled, heavily trimmed, or completely reorganized. But as a member of the race of broken people, I can’t see the brilliance in ignoring everyone outside of our comfortable range of influence and hoping that there is someone closer to do the job for us.

In an age where the majority of American students can not identify the 50 states in our Union, or are unable to recognize that Asia is not Russia or vice-versa, I think we need to be sending more young adults all over the world to be positive Christian influences in more lives! Recently I had the opportunity to visit Toronto, Canada (great trip, loved the city; that’s a whole other post) and used their top notch public transportation system. For a quick reality check, I’m a 30+ male who grew up in a rural area of the Mid-West who never had exposure to a city of that size up until that point. I was truly surprised that none of the people on the buses, trams or trolleys talked to each other. Most sat by themselves, put on their MP3 player headphones and did their best not to make eye contact. Is that our future?! Are we to all become highly civilized anti-social societies, too scared to start up a conversation for fear of attracting too much attention to ourselves?

The trip to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico will be one I remember for some time, if not forever. I say without hesitation, that I was truly honored to have met some memorable people, some of them only briefly. As our modern world grows, it grows smaller. The age of isolationism is dead, and every one of us alive today needs to learn more about the world now than our parents ever did at our age. Our youth need more exposure to the world, not less.

My retort to Pastor Brinton is, if you are only teaching your youth how to paint any church in any town in the world, are you sure you are canceling the right trips? On the other hand, painting is a valuable trade skill to learn.