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The “Cuban Guy” and short-term missions: the readers respond

Dear Editor,

Eastern’s administration recently invited Andres Lara, “The Cuban Guy,” to speak to a group of students. I have to admit he sounded intriguing. At the age of 16 Lara escaped from Cuba, spoke no English, had no money or home. Yet he learned English, attended college and started a multi-million dollar company. A testimony worth hearing and I blame no one for wanting to attend.

But there was rarely any mention of his life-changing experience or willingness to help people. It appeared that making money was the theme of the hour.

One student asked, “What motivated you to speak?” His reply was “he saw someone in college and decided that he wanted to be a speaker.” He also alluded several times to the fact that he wanted “to get paid.”

This type of presentation is the opposite of what the Christian Experience is all about. I am not against making money, but the love of money is the root of all evil.

Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters, for we will love the one and hate the other. We have to go no further than Hollywood to see this selfish epidemic play out.

Most “motivational speaking” is entertainment created by the foolish that uses people’s weaknesses for their own personal gain. Therefore, the work of these people tends to do more harm than good.

Missing most from Lara’s presentation was the concept of love. In its mission statement Eastern calls itself a “Christian university dedicated to student development and societal involvement [by] the preparation of students for thoughtful and productive lives of Christian faith and service.”

Jesus’ last commandment was to love one another. It is impossible to love someone else when you’re focusing on yourself the majority of the time.

Success is not necessarily defined in how much money one makes. We are measured by how we impact other people’s lives and perform the works that the Creator assigned for us.

The title of his book, Inspiring the Sleeping Giant Within, leaves much to be desired. If there is ever a wrong message for the Christian it is this one. Proverbs 1:7 remind us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” It all starts with God!

There is no proper knowledge of values, beliefs, discernment or discretion apart from God. You can’t find your purpose by searching within yourself. This is why so many people are miserable today. As Rick Warren reminds us in A Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you!”

It is time for us to stop being fooled by gimmicks, shallow promises and empty rhetoric, and turn to the true source for our meaning and power. There will be no awakening of any “sleeping giants within” until we wake up and embrace the true teachings of the Gospel, leaving all the other nonsense behind.

–Frank Robinson, Graduate student in Urban Economic Development

Dear Editor,

I want to commend Andrea Priest for her excellent article questioning the effectiveness of short-term mission trips (STMs). I share many of her concerns and, as the organizer of Eastern’s mission trips, often describe myself as Eastern’s biggest critic of those trips. Done poorly, STMs can distract or even disrupt ministry, as Andrea rightly points out. The question is, how can they be done well?

There are a few practices we use at Eastern that attempt to address some of these concerns.

First, we enter into longstanding relationships with specific mission agencies and seek to make a long-term impact by working alongside established local churches and missionaries. Often, we repeat trips to the same location. A case in point are our spring break trips to the Dominican Republic where we partner with Food for the Hungry and return repeatedly to one village, with indigenous leaders in Sabana Cruz determining our work.

Second, we intentionally seek out wholistic ministry that meets physical and spiritual needs, recognizing that evangelism and discipleship are long-term processes.

Third, we train and educate teams as best we can, even while recognizing the limits of STM’s. I require students going on international trips to read a Youthworker article (May/June 2001) which asks whether STMs fulfill the great commission and which raises many of Andrea’s questions.

Last, we urge students to consider longer term commitments to missions through a variety of careers. For many Eastern alumni serving in the mission field, their first exposure to needs outside the U.S. was an STM.

My hope and prayer is that, despite their shortcomings, God would use short term mission trips to raise up a generation of passionate and informed believers who transform the globe for Christ.

–Andy Horvath, Director of Service Learning and Campus Ministries

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