As I eagerly prepared for this latest mission trip to Uganda, I began to notice a series of articles and blog posts circulating on social media criticizing short-term mission trips. These posts made the claim that the short amount of time that “Westerners” spent with people in impoverished countries, such as Uganda, really did more harm than good. If we’re honest with ourselves, we are exploiting the people we visited to make ourselves feel better without really putting in the work. We would be better off sending the money to the countries for resources and really doing something that mattered. We are kidding ourselves if we think that six days spent with hundreds of women and children would actually make any difference.
Of course I was offended and defensive and immediately thought of a million reasons why they were wrong and I was right and why I really was making a difference.
And then I remembered, it’s not about me. And it’s definitely not about what the blogosphere thinks. It’s about the tangible, the noticeable, and the incredible differences I’ve seen in the health, happiness, and overall well-being of five villages as the result of partnerships built by mission trips. It’s about the Holy Spirit working in incredible ways to create lasting relationships and transform lives for the glory of God.
On this latest trip to Uganda I was keeping this idea in the back of my mind. Were we really making a difference? Does making soap with 100 women under a tree really make a difference? Does holding this extraordinarily heavy child on my back for two hours really make a difference? Does playing soccer with a bunch of kids while I’m on the EQUATOR really make a difference? Does listening to this report and program from the leaders really make a difference?
The answer is and always will be a hundred times over: YES!
When three women spend half a day teaching other women how to make a product that will generate income for themselves, their families, and their communities, it matters.
When a child gets to be singled out and special for a couple hours so he can go home feeling loved, it matters.
When men interact with other young men and show them how they can use their talents and skills to benefit their community, it matters.
When a group of people from the other side of the world sit and listen to you share the experiences, achievements, and challenges of your one village, it matters.
It is difficult to really explain the impact that the partnership between the U.S. and Uganda through Hearts and Hope for Uganda truly has. This partnership is not only strengthened through mission trips. It’s because of sponsoring a student, attending a fundraiser, collecting donations, and just talking about Hearts and Hope and Uganda that there are people in Uganda whose lives are truly being touched.
It is always amazing how God works on these trips. Each member was affected in a unique and significant way. It is humbling to think how He had a plan for each of us coming together on the trip and for us to meet each and every child we came across. I felt so lucky to get to see nine new people fall in love with Uganda the same way I did and many others have before us. God’s ways are perfect, and it is a privilege to be His hands and feet in Uganda.
Thank you to all of the senders – your job is the most difficult, and the most essential. Thank you for being a part of why mission trips matter.
God has His hand on this place and these people, and all glory belongs to Him.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.