Yesterday we looked at the first thing I believe we “must” include in our mission trips for college students. Today we will discuss the second thing:
2. Create Teachable Moments (and brutal ones)
If you take a trip to a second-world country like Romania or a third-world country like India or Cambodia, expect the college-age people that go to be rocked. Expect their hearts to be engaged and their minds to do some intellectual gymnastics. Be prepared to deal with the anger they may feel toward Americans and the American lifestyle when they come back. They usually look at the amount of money, how it’s used and the over abundance of material possessions to be repulsive after these experiences. And, in many ways, rightly so. But how they handle that can be another story. As leaders we have a chance to sieze as well as create teachable moments to help people process the trip in an effective way.
I remember a trip we took to India. We served in a few ways there, but the trip was more of an exposure trip. We went to two or three different ministries a day, listening to the stories of missionaries and their ministries. We spent 12 days in the slums of India, where the poorest of the poor live. We were in some tribal areas outside of Mumbai (what we refer to as Bombay) as well as some slum areas in the city. In fact, Mumbai is said to have the largest slum area in all of Asia having over 1 million people in this one slum. It’s unbelievable to spend time there. Heartbreaking, for sure.
Well, part of the exposure trip is to expose people not just to missionary possibilities, but also to the culture. So I did something a bit risky at the end of a trip to India. I didn’t tell anyone, but the very last day we packed up in our rural location and headed into the city for our last night. Nobody knew where we were going. We took the train into the city (which is a total experience in itself!) and then a cab from the train station to the Gateway of India. This is a national landmark that you may have seen in pictures. We gathered there, sat down by the water, and debriefed some of the trip. Being right next to the slum area we talked about our time there, the things we saw, the things that stood out and those that broke our hearts. When we were done I told everyone to put their backpacks on and we were going to go to where we were staying for the night.
They didn’t realize it, but we were already there. Directly across the street was the Taj Mahal Hotel. This hotel is five star, plus. It’s the nicest I’ve ever stayed, anywhere. If you go to the pool, you have a personal servant. If you want anything, they get it for you.
People were shocked.
No, actually they were angry.
“How could we go through all this, learn what we did the past two weeks and then stay here tonight!?” they asked. “How much are we paying for this!?” one person asked as he pulled me aside.
The intellectual gymnastics began.
I told everyone to go to their rooms, take a shower and meet back in the lobby in an hour. After that hour we walked down the street to a restaurant to get dinner. It was there that we began to discuss this issue. There were some real times of tension, but in the end it was a great teachable moment. The bottom line was that right outside of the walls of the hotel was the largest slum in all of Asia. But India has both extremes and I wanted them to see that. In addition, I didn’t just want them to understand it in theory, I wanted them to feel the dichotomy between the two worlds. And they definitely felt it. It was a challenge to them to begin thinking about what they value as they go back home. We talked about the abundance of comfort we live in everyday and how when we go back we have a choice: we can remember the stark contrast we live in compared to the rest of the world, or go through life focused on our own comfort and forgetting how others live.
[sample taken from College Ministry From Scratch]