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Going on a mission trip

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Has anyone here gone on a mission trip, or thought about going on one?

 

I imagine the overall opinion about the idea is negative, given that this is a forum composed of atheists.. but from what I've heard about it, it seems like an awesome opportunity to 'get out of dodge,' travel to a new country, volunteer, apply your skills to a new area, learn about different cultures, have your housing and food paid for, etc. The only downsides I can think of are that you'll probably have to go to religious services and participate in religious events. (On that note- is it dishonest for a non-religious person to apply for one of these positions?)

 

I guess the main question is 'what's the purpose for going on one of these trips?' Most people who go say they want to help the needy and spread the word. I think I would like to go, even though it has nothing to do with my career interests, to explore a new area of the world and to just do something different. I realize that doing something related to my discipline would probably be more useful. But for some reason I cringe at the thought of spending another summer working in a computer lab 12 hours a day. I usually don't mind it, I actually enjoy it quite a bit, but I'd like a change of scenery. Is it bad to not have a specific reason for wanting to go on one of these trips? My thoughts are, I want to get something out of the experience, but I don't know what that something is. Does that make it aimless?

Edited by mdegges
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Has anyone here gone on a mission trip, or thought about going on one?

Spending time abroad is a great idea. Firstly, it is fun to experience the differences. It's one way to fill your life with more values: try different foods, different places -- check out different cultures. These days, I consider it essential "renaissance man/woman" education to anyone who can swing it. One learns not just the differences, but -- in time -- one figures out what's really common and similar in human beings all over the world.

It can also be fun to try out things that are not related to one's immediate career. It's like taking a sabbatical. It can renew one. In addition, smart people always learn from new experiences. So, working as a jack-of-all-trades in a third-world clinic can give you ideas that you will use all over the place. I think that is the main reason a stint in the Peace Corp, or something similar, looks good on the resume. It is not only about altruism. The recruiter assumes that the Peace Corp gal has had some parochialism knocked out of her.

I would assume that going on a mission where one spent time trying to introduce people to Christianity could get old -- even if an atheist can qualify in the first place. It would severly undermine the whole idea. However, if one is doing something productive, it will probably be fun and learning.

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Thanks snerd- especially for paragraph 2!! I've always wanted to travel and do something fufilling that's different from a regular internship, but haven't had the resources to do so. Studying abroad would be awesome, but there are lots of qualifications to meet (foreign lang, gpa, etc), limits on courses you can take, programs you need to be involved in, financial aid issues to solve, and so on. It takes lots of advanced planning that I didn't jump into soon enough.

 

I see mission work it as a way to work in a new area in exchange for room & board (and as you said, fun!)

I'm not sure if those 'conversion' mission trips exist anymore, at least not for short-term workers. (Don't have to worry about a Rambo situation.) Most of the descripts seem pretty secular, although I'm sure there's some religious aspect to it. For ex, there's lots of places in Japan and Laos where you live and work in training schools, teach small kids math & english, and help out with farm work. Lots more where you help out in orphanages and clinics in Africa.. and a few where you do computer/IT work. I guess it would be similar to going on a sabbatical, but still staying busy with different types of work.

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While I can certainly understand the desire to have adventures like this, personally I don't think I would want to lend any of my productive time and energy to any endevor that involved bringing Christianity to the native inhabitants in any fashion.   From what I've observed I'd have to say that these various christian missionary groups have done far more harm in the third world than any real good.  

 

A few years back I spent several months working in Nigeria and can tell you with out hesitation that it's no place you want to go unless you can figure out a way to be paid well for being there.  It would also be advisable to have the security infastructure of a large corporation you could draw on to help keep yourself safe while there.  Otherwise you'll run a fairly high risk that what you thought was going to be a neat adventure turns in to nothing short of a serious suffer-fest.  

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Most of the descripts seem pretty secular, although I'm sure there's some religious aspect to it.

Don't these missions only take people from their own religious denominations? Is your religion not a criteria? What about the Peace Corp... how do these compare to that?
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...I don't think I would want to lend any of my productive time and energy to any endevor that involved bringing Christianity to the native inhabitants in any fashion.   From what I've observed I'd have to say that these various christian missionary groups have done far more harm in the third world than any real good. 

 

What, specifically, are you referring to? The modern-day mission trips I'm talking about take volunteers, set them up in Christian orphanages, clinics, schools, training centers, etc. For all intents and purposes they are simply charities in other countries.

 

 

A few years back I spent several months working in Nigeria and can tell you with out hesitation that it's no place you want to go unless you can figure out a way to be paid well for being there.

 

Thanks for your story. I suppose if I wanted to be paid well and do the same sort of job everyday, I would just get an internship in my field or stay in my current position. But I think you said it nicely, the sentence about adventure. I think that's what I'm looking for, something new and exciting. I'll post again once I find out more information about the security issue: that's a valid point. Although, there are many different places to choose from, not just countries in Africa (although Morocco would be my first choice- that's where my grandparents are from!)

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Don't these missions only take people from their own religious denominations? Is your religion not a criteria? What about the Peace Corp... how do these compare to that?

 

Religion is an optional fill-in-the-blank in the application for the two large mission organizations I have looked into.

 

The Peace Corp is federally funded, whereas mission organizations are funded through churches and other religious groups. To be in the peace corps, you need to commit a minimum of 27 months. (This is not ideal for students or people who have jobs, but would be great as a transition after college to a full-time job. Most positions require you to have a 4-year degree.) The Peace Corps also pay more than mission trips, (giving you an allowance, stipend at the end of your term, etc.) so that's nice. And since it's federally funded, it's easy to defer students loans and such until you get back.

 

Depending on the mission organization/specific trip, you can go for just one summer (8-12 weeks), a semester (16 weeks), or a year. In mission trips, you serve in Christian schools, clinics, orphanages, etc, but also help with local projects that aren't religiously-affiliated.  Your room and board is taken care of, and they pay for your flight to and from the country you're placed in.

 

I'll post more info once I get some more information. Off the bat though, it seems that going on a short mission trip would be a nice intro to see if you want to get more involved in that line of work.

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The Peace Corp...

... mission organization/specific trip, you can go for just one summer (8-12 weeks), a semester (16 weeks), or a year.

... it seems that going on a short mission trip would be a nice intro to see if you want to get more involved in that line of work.

Thanks for the info.

An "intro trip" does sound like a plan.

AbA raised an important point above: sometimes one can glamorize a trip to a third-world country and the reality is all sorts of tough conditions to live with. One has to decide for oneself. Each of us knows our own tolerance for tough living.

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What, specifically, are you referring to? The modern-day mission trips I'm talking about take volunteers, set them up in Christian orphanages, clinics, schools, training centers, etc. For all intents and purposes they are simply charities in other countries.

 

My point is that these people don't need any more altruistically motivated selfless charity.   Especially if the price for it involves getting indoctrinated with that malicious collection of reality denying nonsense that is "Christianity".   The harsh reality is that they need to learn self reliance and respect for the individual rights of others.   All this aid and charity has really done is to create an ever larger dependant welfare class.   Along with an ever expanding pool of human suffering and misery.

 

As to the current negative results of christianity having been brought to the natives by all these various "missionary workers" over the years I suggest you search for articles on "Child Witches" in Nigeria.   While I was there the number two cottage industry seemed to be for the natives who'd been schooled most in "the word of god" by these all various Missionaries was to set up shop as a prophet of god, try and build a church and use it to prey on his neighbors.   Boy howdy, if you think we have snake oil selling, faith healing, fire and brimestone preach'n relious scammers in the US, well, I can tell you that there's pretty much one on every corner in Nigeria.   

 

Almost with out fail every day I was there I found myself in the position of having to hold hands with others (individualy and in groups) while some one prayed out loud to invoke God's blessing on us.   The Nigerian crane crew we worked with quite a bit while on shore in Port Harcourt was particuarly fond of this.   In fact they seem to favor praying over having any kind of realistic safety or job discussion meetings.  Before starting one particularly tricky lift when I tried to raise some safety concerns that I thought every one present needed to be aware of, to the Nigerian who was the supervisor of this crew I got told  (and I quote verbatim) "No problem Master, God is watching out for us".   If weren't for the fact that I just happen to be in the right place and was anticipating what might happen when the load started to come off the ground and was able to yank some young Nigerian kid out of the way he would have probably ended up with both his lower legs crushed.    To get this kid out of the way in time I had to roughly grab him by the back of his coveralls and drag him backwards over another steel beam and he ended up hitting the ground pretty hard.   When I reached down to help him up he recoiled from me in terror holding his hands up saying "No master, no master".   It was like he thought I was some kind of colonial white over seerer who was going to beat him because I blamed him for what had happened.   After about 5 minutes of pretty intense discussion amongst those present in languages I didn't understand every one seemed to realize that I'd done the kid a good turn and it was not a case of a white man taking liberties to abuse a black man.   Oh man this kid ended up adopting me as his personal white man.   Every morning after that he had to come hold my hand and pray for me.   He brought me all kinds of little trinkets and gifts of local food (most of which I found highly unappetizing and unsanitary).   And no matter how much I tried to get him to use my real name he wouldn't refer to me as anything other than "Master".   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for your story. I suppose if I wanted to be paid well and do the same sort of job everyday, I would just get an internship in my field or stay in my current position. But I think you said it nicely, the sentence about adventure. I think that's what I'm looking for, something new and exciting. I'll post again once I find out more information about the security issue: that's a valid point. Although, there are many different places to choose from, not just countries in Africa (although Morocco would be my first choice- that's where my grandparents are from!)

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I never really had an interest to do this, though there are many opportunities in college. I tend to find the people that come back from trips such as Africa say that it changed their life. 
 

I think whenever you have the chance to travel, you should take it. College is a great time to do it, too. It gives you a chance to make great friends and have good experiences with different cultures.

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  • 2 months later...

Why is charity so often cast in a negative light? 'Charity' is not the same as 'altruism'

 

 

I guess for me the reason that "charity" carries such a negative connotation is because most of the people I've come in contact with during my life that have made a big deal out of the "charity" work they do are for the most part otherwise people I've come to find philosophically abhorrent and burdensome to deal with or be around.   If they haven't been out right religious fanatics they've been moochers who've tried to use their so called "charity" work as a cover for the fact that they themselves  feel they have a "right" to get by in this life by relying on the productive efforts of others.  

 

As far as "charity" not being the same as altruism....well, I think that all depends on how you would define "charity" and the context in which you would try to practice or advocate it.    I will have to say that I think the general held public perception that doing Charity work some how makes one virtuous is based on using Altruism as a moral justification for it.  

 

Thanks to the contaminating influence of the Christian religion the concept of "Charity" has gotten so mixed up with the concepts of self sacrifice and the morality of Altruism that it does far harm than good.  

 

So how's your search for a missionary work type adventure coming?   Please don't think that because I have an over all low opinion of Religiously motivated charity that I would look down on or fault you for going on one of those.   I encourage you to go do something like that if you can arrange it so that it doesn't have to negative a disruptive effect on the long term course and success of your life.   

 

I got an email just yesterday asking if I'd be available to go to Vietnam mid July as part of a crew involved with moving an off shore drilling rig.   So right now I'm kind of stoked up over the possibility of a well paid employment adventure in my near future.

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I've never looked into this kind of thing, so I'm not sure if it's even an issue anymore (maybe these areas are avoided altogether), but: be careful about being an American in an area where it might get you killed.

 

Besides that, is there a downside to dramatically new experiences? I can't think of one!

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Aba- I've been sitting here for awhile trying to think of a way to explain when and why charity can be a positive act or a personal virtue. I've never had to describe it before- most people just take charity as a given and believe it's a great virtue no matter what the circumstances.

I'm going to be using the broadest definition of charity here: the voluntary act of helping other people.

I think charity can be a great virtue, if not done out of guilt or coercion.. but it's hard to explain why. Simply saying 'I like helping people' or 'I feel satisfied when I help people' doesn't really get at the why. One could just ask 'Why do you like helping people?' or 'Why do you feel satisfied when helping people?' and be met with the same confused stares.

The closest thing to an explanation I've read comes from Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage:

 

It is pleasure that lurks in the practice of every one of your virtues. Man performs actions because they are good for him, and when they are good for other people as well they are thought virtuous: if he finds pleasure in giving alms he is charitable; if he finds pleasure in helping others he is benevolent; if he finds pleasure in working for society he is public-spirited; but it is for your private pleasure that you give twopence to a beggar as much as it is for my private pleasure that I drink another whiskey and soda. I, less of a humbug than you, neither applaud myself for my pleasure nor demand your admiration.
 

 

This matches up nicely with Rand's take on pleasure, which she defines as "the form in which man experiences the reality of his values."

But note that this doesn't answer the main question, 'Why does charity make a person happy?'
This can't be answered generally. We need to know what one values before we can understand why that pleases him.
On my part this will take some more introspection to figure out.. 'What do I value that makes me want to other help people?'

 

Edit: I had more to say in regards to your actual post, but I got a bit sidetracked as you can see. :whistle:

Edited by mdegges
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... ... On my part this will take some more introspection to figure out.. 'What do I value that makes me want to other help people?'

As human beings, I think it is just natural to enjoy fixing problems, creating stuff, being productive, etc. ... ... more generally "creating values". It is commonplace for rich, successful people to say that they love what they do and that the millions they earn from doing it is secondary. While it's easy to be cynical about it, there's an important truth there. (It's also the message from a fictional hero like Howard Roark.)

So, if I see a kid struggling with homework, or with dribbling a soccer-ball, and help him out and he can do something he could not do before... ... that's essentially what productiveness (and self-esteem) is all about. If one narrows one's perspective down to just that context (i.e. to one little incident like that), it really does not matter if the kid you're helping is your own kid or some poor kid in a youth-charity program.

Of course the larger context matters, and one ought to consider it: so if one steps back, it does matter if the kid is one's own child. Or, considering the larger context, one might decide not to "help" some particular beggar with money. Or, a flight-instructor who normally enjoys teaching his students to fly, may instead focus on something else if he suspects the guy is a 9/11 hijacker.

So, the larger context is important, but it is still true that if that context is somewhat neutral, it is enjoyable to be able to create values.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Believe it or not I say go for it and have fun.  If you do it for good reasons that are important to you then you should go for it instead of living with the dreaded "what if" your whole life.

 

As Snerd said experiencing other cultures like that can be very rewarding.  Once upon a time I drove truck and it was very satisfying to experience so many fascinating places, music, food, and people.  And that was only America!  More importantly, as my wife says, don't be a  tourist so this would let you experience the world as it is, not as it is sold to travel agencies. 

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