It recently dawned on Doug Banister, pastor of All Souls Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, that it may be better spent in his own community. He uses the story of a young boy living in a dire situation to show how there are problems right in front of him that need to be addressed. He was worried about problems elsewhere and miss what was right in front of him.
That realization led him to re-think the thousands of dollars he spent on international mission trips. He makes the case for investing in the community of Knoxville in an article for Christianity Today.
Every time I hear of another $3,000 short-term mission trip, I think about Dan and Mary, whose ministry to Knoxville’s refugee community is chronically underfunded. I think about the 1,600 meals that the same sum would pay for at our rescue mission. I think about the inner city schoolteacher who dips into her $34,000 salary to pay for pencils and treats. I think of the 83-year-old widow with the $700 winter heating bill, waiting for a new roof she can’t afford. I think about the 50 children of prisoners on the waiting list for the underfunded Amachi mentoring program. I think about the 30 children who have never seen a deer who could go to a Bible camp in the mountains for the same amount of money it takes to send one person overseas for a week. And I think about the starving boy on my swim team.
The ideas are almost there, but he strays off the path. The problem with the mission trips is that the money could have been better spent both home and abroad. Rather than traveling to volunteer each year, he can have a greater impact by putting that same money behind community-based programs in Knoxville and Kathmandu.