There’s something unsettling about reading a persuasive article on reasons to cancel one’s short-term mission trip while in the middle of such a trip. Pitfalls associated with short-term missions were clearly spelled out in the article, including imposing one’s vision and ideas on a community or church without their input or participation. Should Restoration’s mission trip to Cochabamba, Bolivia, in which we ran a Vacation Bible School at La Trinidad Anglican Church, have been cancelled?
As I reflect on this question, I return to a core belief of Restoration that we are all broken people in some way or form. I believe that in recognizing this truth (or having it thrust upon us!), we had the opportunity to experience our time in Bolivia with humility and open hands. Although our approach to VBS at La Trinidad was in no way without flaw in terms of classic shortcomings of mission trips, I do celebrate and give thanks for how God orchestrated a solid partnership among La Trinidad, our Restoration team, and the residential group homes of Ninos con Valor (NCV). More than mere platitudes, I can say without these three groups working together, VBS would not have been possible. We came as an imperfect team, with two members unable to join us, many not knowing Spanish, others suffering from altitude sickness, and limited time to understand the space and needs of the kids who would be attending. La Trinidad graciously welcomed more than 40 children into their sanctuary and grounds and provided staff and delicious refrescos for the kids. NCV sent eight teenage girls from their home for girls to serve as assistants, and they cared for and supported the children in ways we couldn’t have. We were also hungry recipients of all the chatter, giggles, small presents, and attention we could soak up from the kids.
As we and our partners spent the Olympic-themed week learning about God our coach, running the race of life as a Christian, and sharing “the gold” with others, we trust that God did a good work in the lives of the children we came to love. We also believe that our neediness, despite the relative abundance of our Western resources, allowed us to authentically enter into a gospel partnership with our dear hermanos y hermanas in Christ. We’re thankful for the family of God that knows no boundaries.