I guess I’d never really thought about this before reading this article on the “Simply Missional” blog. The article was entitled “Mission Trips,T-shirts, shoes and toothbrushes” and contained some very interesting insights, that I’ve never really thought about before.
I know that our family hopes to go on a Missions trip at some point. We even chose a few of our Compassion kids based on the idea that we might be able to visit them at some point, and I’d assumed when we did, that we’d be taking down all sorts of goodies, not just for our sponsored kids, but also for others in the community.
What this article points out (and I’d encourage you to click on the link and read it in its entirety) however is…
Whenever you give something away, especially in non emergency scenarios, you’re doing some kind of damage.
- Whenever you give away a t-shirt, you’re taking business away from a local t-shirt vendor.
- Whenever you give away a pair of shoes, you’re taking business away from a local shoe vendor.
- Whenever you give away a toothbrush, you’re taking business away from a local retailer.
Giveaways always shrink the local markets. And this is never a good thing. Not to mention, giveaways also create a “lazy” culture. More often than not, especially in places like Haiti and Mexico where so many American groups take mission trips, giveaways create a culture of dependency.
Wow! The author goes on to suggest as an alterative…
Instead of boxing up shoes, toothbrushes, and shirts and paying to ship them, just bring money, go down to the local market in the country you’re serving in, and buy EVERYTHING possible from the local vendors.
If you do this, you will be adding so much value to the country that you’re serving:
- You’re helping the local economy grow.
- You’re connecting with local culture, and you’re becoming a natural friend to them as you help grow their business and invest in their community.
- You will have a better reputation from the local government and key leaders because you’re team will bring in much needed funds that will help expand the local economy.
- When you buy from a local vendor, that person can afford then to care for their own family, instead of relying on outside aid, or handouts.
- And those in need will still get some of the basic needs that will help them.
This way is more holistic, thoughtful and empowering.
Now, I’m not sure 100% of that logic is sound, but it sure makes some degree of sense, and it’s definitely something that I’ll think about when it’s time, God willing, that we get to go to some other country on a missions trip.