In the world of short term mission it is the reponsiblity of a team member to return home and “Share a few words” with their sending church. Over the years I have started to collect the worst STM Mission Report cliches that are most frequently shared during the debrief.
We all want to pull a few drops of wisdom from our trip but it is tough to figure out what to say.
So, if you are looking for advice on what not to say, look no further. The following statements are not only dubious truths, in some cases they are just laughably bad.
So this is what a lot of people say in their STM mission report:
Keep track so you can score yourself at the end
“This trip changed my life.”
Of course it did! But change is not a Facebook status update … so lets continue the sentence and let me know how we can expect to see that change. Get specific. “I will be a more appreciative of what I have” does not count.
“I fixed the problem”
Volunteers want to return home with an inspirational story of finding a huge problem and through their intellectual genius discovering a solution that has eluded a country (or continent) for generations. The truth is you won’t do that – and it is really condescending.
“You know what they need is …”
Our need to be the solution to the problems of the world is engrained inside of us. That is awesome! What is even more awesome is seeing that all people (even the poor!) are capable of figuring out their own problems and finding solutions. Let’s celebrate local success – Join in and tell the story!
“Before I left I was totally self centred”
And now you are back and totally a different person? 🙂 Show, don’t tell.
“They really know how to love there”
Cop out. everyone everywhere knows how to love. If you look for it you will find it. If you look for hatred, guess what you will find?
“Even though they have nothing, they are the happiest people on the planet”
This is one of the first things people say when you don’t really know someone. ANYONE who actually gets to know people over time will see them as normal human beings who are sometimes happy, sometimes mad, sometimes bored … you get the picture. As normal as you!
“I brought God to the people”
Do you mean to suggest that God was not already there at work? perhaps you meant to say that God brought you to that place … (unless you mean that God is somehow handcuffed and can only wait for you?)
“I couldn’t help them all, but I made a difference in one persons life!”
Do you remember the name of the person who showed up one time when you were 5 and bought you ice-cream? Neither do I. Real change takes contact over time. Think about the people who made a real difference in your life, probably not a stranger who parachuted in for a few days. Making a difference = time spent.
Who is the main subject of your photos? Did you take awesome gritty pics of the poverty, decay and kids without shoes? Poverty porn sucks. Would you want me to show up to the worst part of your town and show my friends the place where you live. Inspire others, and post dignity. If most of your pics are selfies of what you did – Fail.
“I felt like I was at home”
Whenever I take a vacation and leave the country I look at local real estate. We all dream of moving into a new place (hopefully a tropical paradise with a much cheaper cost of living). Be careful of thinking that the excitement phase of going to a new culture is the same as living there permanently.
“I wasn’t qualified but I was called”
Jumping in to help move a stuck truck out of a ditch doesn’t require qualifications. Jumping in to give advice on education, construction, and economic systems just might. Does growing up in the country you grew up in give you special insights into the problems of other nations? Be careful of humble-bragging your ability
“They have nothing”
Did you even look around? Notice that there are plenty of people who welcomed you, fed you, proudly showed you around? To say someone has nothing to give you devalues what they gave you. Point out their generosity 10 times before you point out their poverty once.
“I just feel so blessed and thankful”
Did you actually mean “I didn’t like not having hot water on tap or easy wifi … so I appreciated it more when i got back home”. Think about why this happens. Does God like you more, is that why I get to live where I live and other people have to live where they do?
“It is not about me”
And here is my 500 pictures of myself to clarify that it is really not about me
So how many of these have you been guilty of?
- 1-3 – You are a Mission Superstar – and no one knows it – nicely done!
- 4-7 – You might want to remind yourself that your mission is something God has planned and you get to join.
- 8-11 – You are the star of your own story and there is not much room for anyone else …
- 11+ – welcome to the “Mission for Me” club!
The truth is, at various times, I have said every one of these phrases myself! We are all overwhelmed by our first experiences.
The key is to change.
If this is the wrong way to share an STM mission report, what is the right way to tell others about your experience? How do you debrief?
It’s not that tough. It just means we focus on telling the story of other people with dignity