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Impact Overseas

One of the most common remarks I hear from those returning from missions trips abroad is, “I feel like I received more than I gave.” Anyone who has participated in such a trip will agree that oversees missions can have a very deep and lasting impact. I believe that overseas missions trips offer opportunities and advantages that cannot be gained in any other way. This is not to say that domestic missions do not have their benefits as well. There are many advantages to domestic trips, including a higher potential for long-term involvement and development of relationships. However, I believe that overseas missions can be superior to local ones for several reasons related to personal growth. For my argument, I will focus primarily on short-term missions trips, since these tend to be more prevalent, especially among college students.

The primary benefit to short-term overseas missions trips involves immersion in another culture. While such immersion can take place within one’s own country, state or neighborhood, the contrast is usually much more stark and dramatic in other countries. Experience in another culture can be transformational in many ways. “Culture shock” is often the term used to describe the feeling of being forced outside one’s own comfort zone to interact with a foreign society. Such “shock” challenges existing beliefs, nurtures compassion and empathy and inspires personal development. Experience in poorer countries in particular often causes participants to be more humble and thankful for the blessings of their own country.

In addition, because overseas missions trips can often be more emotionally challenging and dramatic, they frequently ignite a passion for future missions within participants. While domestic missionaries can also be “bitten with the missions bug,” this tends to happen more often in missions abroad because the setting is so novel.

This produces two positive effects. First, the support group of the short-term missionary becomes a natural network for raising awareness. As participants raise support for their trip (usually through letters asking for financial contributions), friends and family become aware of social justice needs in the destination country. Second, upon returning from an overseas trip, the impassioned participant is often inspired to help with missions and causes at the domestic level.

It is true that, by spending two weeks or even two months in another country, you may not have an immediate-or even apparent-effect on the community you serve. It is also true you do not have to travel across the world to find a “neighbor” to love. However, I believe there are distinct benefits to short-term overseas missions trips that cannot be gained from local ones. While missions trips abroad may not necessarily be more “effective” in terms of aid given or relationships formed, they do offer a unique opportunity for personal growth and development.

In short, overseas missions trips do not inhibit domestic involvement. Instead, they often encourage participants to become more involved locally upon returning from their trips as more roundly developed people.  

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