We were just finishing our first pre-trip team meeting. Our adult medical team of ten had just spent 90 minutes playing awkward get-to-know-you games, sharing the vision for the trip and walking through the preparation process. We were in the middle of challenging the team to spend time in prayer and reflection as they prepared their hearts for mission….That’s when the question came?
“Can I sleep in a hammock outside?”
Sleeping accommodations questions are not uncommon during adult, pre-trip meetings. And sometimes the discussion is important, especially if a team member is anxious or has medical concerns. However, I got a sense this question had a different purpose. What this young woman was really asking was —- how can I make this an adventure? I knew right away our team had a Fun-Lover.
What is a Fun-Lover?
The “Fun-Lover” is interested in going on an adventure, meeting new people and enjoying every moment along the way. They tend to be the happiest people at the beginning of a trip, but discouragement usually creeps in at some point — often when things get serious and/or uncomfortable. The Fun-Lover might be heard saying, “When we’re done helping, we get to go do [xyz-fun activity], right?” As a result, Fun-Lovers tend to find themselves focusing on, well, themselves more than those they are there to serve. This leads to cultural insensitivity, discontentment, and/or unmet expectations.
We missions leaders, have to own our role in what is now called “Missionary Tourism”. We have spent the last 2-3 decades “selling” the adventure of mission and service. The result…. A staggering increase in the number of t-shirt wearing, Jesus-following, world-saving people traveling around every summer looking for a way to hug an orphan, sleep in a hammock and get a picture with someone with a visible physical need. It’s the hot new type of vacation… Christians go to exotic parts of the world, see and experience new things while learning how thankful they should be for all they have. Oh, and feel the presence of God.
Here is a typical tag line for even the best short-term missions organizations:
“The XXXXXXX is a stretching journey to serve “the least of these” while amongst real and raw community. This unique mission trip is a challenging ADVENTURE for young adults to abandon worldly possessions and a traditional lifestyle in exchange for an understanding that it's not about you; it's about the Kingdom.”
This young woman became an invaluable member of the team. She was free spirited and passionate by nature. This enabled her to think out of the box and help our team see opportunities we might not have otherwise seen. Oh, and the answer to the hammock question? In this case, it was NO. We asked our hosts and they were uncomfortable with the idea, so we trusted their advice and slept in the beds provided.
If you are interested in asking yourself important questions about whether you are in a missions or a tourist mindset, check out this BLOG.