According to Merriam-Webster…
- An important assignment carried out for political, religious, or commercial purposes, typically involving travel.
- The vocation or calling of a religious organization, especially a Christian one, to go out into the world and spread its faith.
My problem with this definition is that the focus is on us, what WE do. This definition diminishes the humanity and value of those we visit. Yet, “mission” is the universal term for what we in the partnership have been doing in Haiti for years. I would love to come up with another word, but my view of mission is more than a word. It’s a way of life.
At the international airport, it is evident that mission trips are TAKING things. I would submit that every person who travels to Haiti comes back with something – a deeper faith, a sense of the commonality of lives, a sense of purpose. Each person has a different story, but we all come back WITH something.
So, if we are not “doing mission” as defined, what is it we are doing in Haiti?
WHY: By the mere happenstance of birth, all of us have been raised in privilege. It may not seem like privilege when we go through long periods of unemployment or illness, but in a global sense we are fortunate. So, we are called to share what we have with others.
WHAT: The essence of what we do in Haiti is to listen and learn. We use activities with the school children, or sponsoring mobile clinics, or working together to paint classrooms as vehicles to engage with our Haitian counterparts…to better understand their lives, their priorities, their wishes.
WHO: Some of us have become “regulars” and have built relationships of trust and respect. But, each person who travels to Haiti for the first time brings unique insights, fresh perspectives and important questions.
Not everyone can be on a trip. But they can become participants through their interest and generosity. At the end of the day, it is all about relationships. We are called to be part of a global community and it is a two-way street.
Lee Wilder, Atlanta Georgia