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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Misguided Missions: Analogy with a Side of Cookies

This is the first part in a short series on the evolution of my views on mission trips. With two million Americans going on short term missions yearly (according to, it makes sense to evaluate whether these trips are worth the expense, and if their outcomes are generally good or generally bad. My intention here is to highlight the nuances I now see and give us all some questions to think about, not to criticize you, your church, my church, or my own self. 


You know what the world needs more of?

Chocolate chip cookies, obvs.

I think we can all agree that the world would be a better place if more people had access to chocolate chip cookies.

But let's imagine the almost unimaginable tragedy that would have been my life if I somehow had never sunk my teeth into the steamy, buttery goodness of a freshly baked CCC.

I would have been sad.

I would have been hungry.

I would have had nothing to eat for breakfast.

And then imagine that a team of bakers came to my house to teach me how to bake! It happened like this:

I sat at the island in my kitchen amazed at the skill of the bakers as they whipped together ingredients I had previously only seen in the movies.

It didn't matter that the only words we could understand of each other's languages were "hello" and "bye bye" and my new word, "cookie."

We took pictures together in our aprons and posted them to an adoring world. "How selfless you are to help that poor, cookieless American!" commented people from both of our countries. It was so fun.

Ah, but then the cookie triumph turned into a cookie tragedy.

The foreign friends didn't realize that my oven worked in Farenheit, so they set it to 180 degrees and the cookies didn't bake. Then they had to leave before they could help me clean up the mess, so I had to wash the goo off all the cookie sheets myself. The bakers had given me the recipe, but the English translation was poor and I knew I'd never be able to make cookies without help.

I hoped that the team would come again the next summer and bake me a successful batch of cookies, but when the next summer came, it was a whole new group of foreigners that came traipsing through my kitchen. Would you believe that they tried to set the oven to 180 degrees again? Just like the last group.

The third summer, there was no cookie team. The local church that had hosted them each year  couldn't find four host families, so there was nowhere for the team to stay while they spread the love of chocolate chip cookies throughout suburban America. It probably wouldn't have worked out anyway; the foreign baking organization that sent the teams ran out of funds. Apparently $8000 is a big price tag to send volunteer bakers to help the dessert-less.

So we were forced to resort to Plan B. My local church had an oven, and chocolate chip cookie recipes in English. We even had some skilled bakers! For fifty dollars, we purchased enough supplies for several batches. They had a training class and taught me how to make cookies myself, and now I can make them whenever I want and share them with my friends, too.

And I do. Oh, I do.


Let's continue the conversation!  Find the whole series here:

Part 1. Misguided Missions: Analogy with a Side of Cookies
Part 2. Misguided Missions: The Problem Defined 
Part 3. Misguided Missions: The Culprit is Me (...and You?)
Part 4. Misguided Missions: Toxic Charity and the Case of Cuba
When Helping Hurts: A Misguided Missions Follow-Up

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