Thursday, February 17, 2011

Initial Reflections on South Asia Trip #2.

I just returned from our second mission trip to the same South Asian country, where our church has a long term partnership building a village for widows and orphans.  (We aren't allowed to state the name of the country on the web.)  I don't have long to write, but I want to share a few brief reflections.
1. The long-term aspect here is crucial.  The relationships with among the leaders were exponentially deeper on this second trip than the first trip.  One evidence of this is that the staff gave us a huge discount on our lodging expenses.
2. Face to face meetings are extremely important in some cultures.  I received both good and bad news that our partners were uncomfortable sharing by email.
3. Mission trips are transformational - maybe more so for the participants who go.  I realized that I keep doing this trips - just as much for the people who go with me as for the people we help or for myself.
4. Service is SOOOO much more meaningful than tourism.  It's hard to imagine being a regular tourist, but I think I'll be a regular mission tripper for the rest of my life.
5. The first step out of poverty is much smaller than we think.  It is a step of millimeters rather than even inches.
6. My personal income is 20 times that of one of my friends in this country, and he is basically middle class.  Our family income is something like 40 times his.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around that and what it means for me and our family.
7. I want to go back.
8. We need many more of our church leaders to go.  If this is going to be an authentic partnership owned by our church, then we need many of our leaders to go, not just me and random groups of people from our church.  Also, I am hoping that someone else will plan the next trip, and I will function as a coach.
9. I want to bring Emma.  Sarah can't go, since she's pregnant, but I hope I can bring Emma the next time I head south.
10. We are kind of coaching the leaders of this nation in how to be effective partners.  We're all learning together really, but one of the big benefits of our partnership could be helping them develop the skills and the systems to be more effective partners with others. 
11. Our partners are working on organizing a child sponsorship program for the orphans.  It will cost at least $100 a month to sponsor one kid.  That's significantly more than normal sponsorship programs because they are complete orphans, not just needy kids living with families.  However, as the village becomes more self-sustaining, the costs will go down, hopefully enough to maintain the $100 sponsorship cost despite the nation's high inflation.
12. I don't want a permanent tattoo on my forearm.  We did henna tattoos, and while I like them, I felt really conspicuous walking around with short sleeves - especially with a red cross on my arm in a nation with 0.5% Christians.
13. We got positive feedback on developing an online site that could allow us to do fund raising on the web, where people can donate via credit card.   If we get final approval on that, I'll do a post on how you can help out.

OK, so those are some semi-random thoughts while they are fresh.  Maybe I can post more later.
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