As Americans, many of us are accustomed to going on short-term trips because of our freedom. Globally speaking, those of us born in the US have a degree of freedom and safety not found in a lot of other places. A passport gives us the freedom to leave and re-enter our home country without fear of being detained or denied re-entry. Most of us are free to work and speak as we choose, and we have the space to prepare for and pursue short-term mission trips.

To be in a position to have the time, energy, and finances to willingly choose to travel to another country—with the goal of learning and serving—is an incredible freedom.

And I propose that freedom brings with it responsibility—to tell honest stories, to engage in authentic relationships around the globe, to advocate for the vulnerable, and to be a voice for those whose voices have been taken away by captivity, disease, poverty, violence, or war. Additionally, we have a responsibility to be truthful with ourselves. Kent Annan, in his book, Slow Kingdom Coming, encourages us to confess: our mixed motives, our desire to feel good when we help, our public gestures, our hero complex, and our privileges.

At World Orphans, we consider it an honor to have the opportunity to be in relationship with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. It is a privilege to be a small part of what God is doing through the church around the world to reflect his love and bring hope in the name of Christ. And we are encouraging one another to ask the hard questions—questions that arguably help us to steward our freedom. Are we merely lured by the fact that going on a mission trip looks exciting? Is the idea of going on a one-week trip a more comforting thought than being in relationship with a vulnerable family in a local community on a long-term basis?

Kent Annan says, “We confess that injustice weaves through power, race….and nationality. In this confession each of us who somehow benefits can seek the freedom to take responsibility to participate in change.” In reflecting on injustice in America, Annan shares that he found himself thinking about the millions of dollars Americans spend each year on short-term mission trips. This reflection led him to humbly suggest that before a small group is sent from a US church to address injustice in another country, that the congregation go through a public confession about the way our country has exploited people. He further notes that corporate confession through the church leads to new freedom and responsibility in ministry. When we are willing to learn history and current events in order to confess and seek to be a part of the change, we are free to learn through vulnerability that leads to deeper friendships and partnerships.

At World Orphans, we desire to see our church partnerships lead to vulnerability and deep friendship that will result in both churches being encouraged, strengthened, and spurred on to engage with the vulnerable in their communities for the glory of God. Those deep friendships are forged by time together during short-term trips, ongoing communication and shared prayer throughout the year, and a willingness to be authentic about desires, struggles, and lessons learned.

Knowing the value that our international churches find in being visited by their US church partners, it is our prayer that the freedom to participate in short-term mission trips will be wrapped up in a freedom to pursue learning, confession, and growth. We believe that with humility and grace, we can ask God to use us as agents of reconciliation in both our local communities and our partnerships around the world.