That money directly invested towards fighting poverty or training and supporting the local pastors would have a much greater impact than our spending a week smiling, holding kids, doing crafts and playing sports.
In light of that, is it worth it to do short-term missions?
I still say yes. First, the significance and impact of us being there is greater than we realize. We are relational beings, and we bring love, hope, respect and dignity with us that even a blank check cannot provide.
Second, something happens to us that cannot be replicated here. It is hard to explain what this is or how it works, so let’s turn to the Chronicles of Narnia for help.
In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe four children from our world find themselves in the land of Narnia and play a small role in saving Narnia. (Aslan, a lion, is the Christ-figure in these stories, and he is the one who actually saves Narnia.) The four children are crowned Kings and Queens and reign for many years. They grow up in Narnia.
Then one day they stumble back into our world and discover no time has passed here, and they are once again children.
In the second book, Prince Caspian, the four children are pulled back into Narnia to help save the country again. The more time they spend there, the more they become who they once were. The very air of Narnia has a magical effect on them, and they are becoming Kings and Queens again.
At the end of this book Aslan tells the two oldest children, Peter and Susan, they will not be coming back to Narnia.
In the third book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the two younger children, Edmund and Lucy, return to Narnia with their cousin Eustace and have more adventures.
As this story ends, Aslan tells Edmund and Lucy they will not be returning to Narnia. They are upset mainly because they think this means they will never see Aslan again. But he says this is not so.
Edmund asks, “Are you there too, Sir?”
“I am,” replies Aslan. “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
This is the simple reason why short-term mission trips are worth every penny and more. Something happens to us while we are there. Our eyes are opened wider to God, to His world, and His heart for the world. It is not just so we can have a great week we will never forget, but so we can be different here.
So we may know God better here.