I was born and raised on a small farm in NW Iowa. My Christian parents were Dutch. My father immigrated from Holland alone at 20.
My parents believed in Christian education for us nine children. They also were good givers to our church and other Christian causes. I saw evidence of this in the yearly list of church giving. My parents’ giving was usually above other smaller families with larger farms.
Their example inspired my wife and me to tithe even during our poor times. We increased our percentage of giving later in life.
During and after my PhD studies, I did short-term overseas consulting. One of my mentors told me that I should not expect to do much good on a short-term assignment. I always remembered this advice, and observed that it was also true for many short-term mission trips of myself and others.
I am an entrepreneur but had a rocky time getting to a successful business. Not knowing whether to be a businessman or a college professor, I continued to my PhD in irrigation engineering during one of my leaner times.
As our business improved, we were able to give $25,000 for a Jesus Film translation for Russia. We were invited to the premier showing. Our desire was to go; however, we concluded that the $5000 in travel expenses could be much better used for additional mission giving.
Since it appeared that 97% of Christian giving stayed in the US but 97% of the needs and unsaved was in other parts of the world, particularly the 10-40 window, our giving was directed to overseas causes. Our church and international students were also important.
About 25 years ago, something came to us quite clearly. The Lord was working much more through national Christians than through most short or long term American missionaries. Even most unreached people groups could be more effectively reached with nearby Christians than by shipping over Americans unfamiliar with the culture and language.
My wife and I went to India to help with a few Christian business needs. We observed that the Indian Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC), staffed with local native Christians, by and large did not need an American presence. Occasionally they could use short term help for some expertise. They could also use some funds for training materials, tools such as the Jesus Film, projectors and audio equipment and content. Other than this, the local Christians functioned very well without much of our assistance.
We traveled to other countries and studied their foreign mission groups. We saw the same thing. They mostly did not need us, although at times our expertise and a few dollars greatly benefited their outreach. As Dr. Bill Bright, founder of CCC, has stated “Most or our leaders worldwide are nationals, people born and reared in the country in which they now minister”.
We discovered that most of the 1,000,000 foreign students in our country were not spiritually ministered to. Immigrants who maintained contact with their homeland could also be witnessed to, but many were not. Here we are sending missionaries overseas but not taking care of our own “foreign mission” field.
We also found that worldwide Christians in foreign countries were far out numbering American Christians. There were already Christians in most countries that we were sending missionaries to.
I can see some need for short term mission trips by those with expertise to go on site and evaluate the effectiveness a program or evaluation of a gift’s results. We spent about 2% of our giving to evaluate the foreign results. Some of my travels to 40 countries were for adventure. I see many so called mission trips may fall in the area of Christian tourism. I also see that foreign missionaries were needed in an earlier time. My hope is that some day the American church’s missions giving will be mostly used for equipping nationals.