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What are gringos good for?

One of our missionaries who works along the Amazon in Peru said something when she visited our office that stuck with me.   Our teams regularly minister in her village. They don’t speak the local language. They don’t really understand the culture. They need to be housed and fed. They ofte…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
One of our missionaries who works along the Amazon in Peru said something when she visited our office that stuck with me.
 
Our teams regularly minister in her village. They don’t speak the local language. They don’t really understand the culture. They need to be housed and fed. They often have bad attitudes and get sick.
 
So one day Crystal asked God a good question: “Lord, what are gringos good for?”
 
Gringos can do a few obvious things that may help a missionary: attract a crowd and play with kids and evangelize.
 
Many missionaries aren’t as gracious as Crystal. They’ve come to the conclusion that gringos are more trouble than they’re worth.
 
It’s a question we who do short-term missions need to ask and answer. I estimate that 75% of the time teams come without adequate preparation, are not accountable to a local missionary and have little understanding of how to advance the kingdom. Too many of them are narcissistic – addicted to comfort. They struggle to unplug enough to hear God. They need what the trip can do to them, but don’t want to pay the price.
 
Missionaries have to stop doing their missions work to take care of teams on their short-term mission work. The dirty secret is that they have mixed feelings about the gringos – they like some of them and need the financial support, but visiting teams leave them exhausted.
 
How do you answer the question?

Comments (9)

  • Jill Lienemann, Kesher Internati

    Do you think the “vacation with a purpose” mentality/trend is part of the challenge? In our pure motives to engage more of the church body in STM trips, have we catered to “what’s in it for me?” in a worldly sense. Effective change always starts at the top- in other words leadership: Sr. Pastor, Global Pastor/Team, STM Leader, etc. How do you get them to buy into Standards Of Excellence?

  • Like you said:

    75% of the time teams come without adequate preparation:
    PREP, PREP PREP!!!

    are not accountable to a local missionary:
    MUST BE!

    and have little understanding of how to advance the kingdom:
    NEED TO!

    Too many of them are narcissistic – addicted to comfort:
    ST TRIPS CAN HELP BREAK THIS CYCLE

    They struggle to unplug enough to hear God. They need what the trip can do to them, but don’t want to pay the price.
    PRAY THE LORD OF THE HARVEST TO SEND WORKERS…

  • So sad but so true. I’ve been on several short term mission trips and have always tried to prepare my mind, body and spirit before each trip so that I would never be a burden on the people I am there to Bless. I must say I have been embarrassed many times by individuals on the team who were totally unprepared for the reality of third world countries. The food is no good or the ground is too hard to sleep on. Where’s my morning coffee? And on and on it goes. The answer to your question? The leader of the missions team needs to make sure his or her volunteers are properly prepared. If they are not then to respectfully ask them to wait out this trip and maybe go on the next. Or just send your money and your prayers. I’m sure your missionary hosts would gladly accept both.

  • James 2: 14-26

    14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
    18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
    Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

    19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

    20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

    25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

    So what good is a gringo… no good at all. But a gringo with Jesus. Now that is something!

    John 15:1-6

    1″I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
    5″I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

    Ephesians 5:20-21

    20Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

  • I love Crystal, she is my homegirl.

    I think gringos are good for teaching the natives how to love. In spite any intentions or details, every mission trip boils down to two different people groups who have little in common and have to put up with each other and learn to really love each other. Crystal may be teaching Todd how to love and care for Juan, but she may also be teaching Juan how to have patience and grace for Todd.

    Anytime you bring two different people together, there are things for both sides to learn from each other.

  • Great question, Jill. Too many U.S. churches have very little missiological depth. They need help, but don’t how to ask for it. It’s a constant source of frustration for a lot of missionaries I know.

    It all comes out of a lack of discipleship. Senior pastors have never really been discipled, so they don’t disciple their leaders, who in turn don’t disciple others according to 2 Timothy 2:2. So we play at church, never really encouraging or connecting with one another at a deep level, moving from one activity to the next.

    Missions becomes one more agenda item.

  • I agree with you and Comment #1 above by Mark. The team leader must be well-acquainted with the local missionary and have a very good understanding of what s/he expects from the visiting teams. Therefore, the team leader needs to have spent a good amount of time at the mission location–not just one one-week trip! He should also spend a good bit of time talking privately with the local missionary about expectations. Talking in private is key–I think missionaries are often reluctant to speak honestly in front of a visiting team for fear of hurt feelings. Finally, it helps if the missionary organization develops a written guideline for visiting teams, and the team leader should go over those guidelines with his group prior to leaving home.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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