This is a great list for any short-term volunteer to read before embarking on a summer mission. Off the top of my head I would add three more words of advice:
- Be prepared in many cases to be more of an observer than a doer. I’m afraid many short-termers are convinced their 10 days abroad are going to change the world. It’s far more likely (in my opinion) that greater good will come from your willingness to be a learner than from your willingness to save the cheerleader, save the world.
- Remember you’re likely “on the field” for a week or two, and the missionaries there long-term are just that — long-term. Keeping this in mind should influence you greatly. Two areas in particular: 1) the missionaries will deal with the consequences of your actions for a very long time (whereas you probably never will), and 2) it’s easy to live a martyr’s life for a week, but not so much for several years.
- If at all possible, come with a group representative of your church. This means teens, young adults, and older adults. Youth group mission trips are a lot of fun, but a great deal of potential good is lost when only one subset of a church takes part in such an activity — as is much opportunity for mentoring.
Maybe one of the most interesting articles I’ve ever read. It begins with a former missionary to the Piraha people of the Amazon, who found himself being converted to a culture in which people were relentlessly happy; suicide was not at all present in their society. What follows is a bunch of economists and psychologists discussing the various whys and whens of suicide.
While we’re on the Freakonomics blog (see above), I might as well give you three of their posts which I’ve been saving. Here is the second. The title of the link is pretty self-explanatory.
DUBNER: Well how confident are you? I mean, you guys are making a lot of choices from organic food, and sign language, and all kinds of behavioral things, how confident are you that your investments are, forget about optimal, even worthwhile?
WOLFERS: Not at all confident.
DUBNER: Uh, pardon me Professor Wolfers?
WOLFERS: Not at all confident.
DUBNER: Here’s the thing. As much as Wolfers and Stevenson sound like your typical obsessive, sweat-the-small-stuff, micro-managing parents, they actually agree with the rest of our economist roundtable on one crucial and quite surprising fact: Parents just don’t matter as much as we think we think they do.
I’m going to admit something embarrassing. Several months ago we were having a discussion about Canada and whether the unfunny (yet tough) citizens of the country to the north recognize the Queen (as in “of England”) as their own. I voted on the side of “No way! Are you kidding — that’s ridiculous.” But super-missionary Jason Miller made us look it up when we got home. He was right. If you’re as ignorant as I was, you should have a look at this Venn diagram. You can learn all kinds of things about The Crown, England, the U.K., and imperialism.
Did you know that Canadians bow to the queen? Do you think parenting is important? What are your thoughts on short-term missions?