Are we calling this a “win-win”?

You know what I really want to do?

I want to fill a rental van marked “Tourist” with unbelievably rich people and then I want to bring them to your middle-class neighborhood to take pictures of you and your kids and your house and your cars.

I’ll act as the unofficial tour guide to their trip, walking them slowly down the street, pointing out the shocking differences between their lifestyle and yours. “This man,” I will say with a gesture of my upturned palm, “cuts his own lawn.”

“These kids share a bedroom.”

“Many of these families require two incomes… just to survive.”

I’ll tell them bluntly, “Most of these people will never ride in a helicopter, meet the president, or own a show horse.” And they will glance at each other with looks of angst and sadness, they’ll shake their heads at the injustice of it all.

And then I’ll let the details of your simple life sink in as they snap pictures of your no-thrills mid size SUV and your quarter acre lot. I’ll stand aside so they can get pictures of each other, smiling, with their arms around your kids in hand-me-downs. Ooh, and maybe they can take turns helping you cut your hedge or clean your bathroom, and then you could show some of them how to make a sandwich – That would be so great for the video they’re gonna take back to show at the Super Elite Rich People Church.

But don’t worry. There will totally be something in it for you. The rich people are going to paint all of the houses on your block. For real. They’re going to pay for it and do all the work and everything.

Also? They’re gonna do a puppet show for your kids, and give them candy and crap.

It’s a win-win.

Even if you’re extremely uncomfortable while all of this is going on, in the end, you will look at your freshly painted house and it will make you feel good about what just happened. And when the rich people go home, they’ll get to tell their people about how they painted your house and learned to make a sandwich, which, of course, will make them feel good, too.

So, like I said, win-win.

….       ….       ….

Aaaaand…that’s as far as I got.


I wrote this about a week ago and it has just been sitting there on my desktop, open, waiting for a conclusion. Then, all of a sudden, my Google reader, Twitter feed, and Facebook timeline (can you say social media overkill?) were brimming with debate over the issue of “Poverty Tourism”. And I was like “Whoa! I was just thinking about that.” So I thought I’d throw it out here, unfinished, as is – a ridiculous revamping of the modern short-term missions experience – and see what your thoughts are…

Are short-term missions teams sent to impoverished communities helpful…? or harmful…? or maybe neither…? Whadayathink? 

Are we calling this a win-win? Speak freely.



  1. Linda on June 28, 2018 at 9:51 am

    Ho. Lee. Shit.

  2. Hannah on September 22, 2019 at 2:08 am

    I’m speechless. I lived in Guatemala for 7 years and saw this very thing happen too many times in my experience. I just read a different blogger talk about how detrimental short term missions trips are to the actual cause and it is so true.

  3. […] For example: The first time I volunteered in Kenya’s sprawling, impoverished neighborhood of Kibera, I was so blown away by the poverty that I snapped dozens of photos and dumped them all right onto Facebook, thinking I was “raising awareness”. But would I want a similar photo taken of myself? Absolutely not. […]

  4. board on November 12, 2019 at 11:51 am

    So how did we do it? The most obvious thing, but possibly the hardest, was that we had to retain and increase the contracts we already had. We did lose a couple as unfortunately we operate in a very price sensitive market and often clients think that the grass is greener elsewhere. In 2016, just after I took over as MD, our two largest contracts were up for re-tender. This was a worrying time as both contracts equated to almost half our turnover and they were crucial to our business. Luckily, we were able to not only retain them both but also increase our remit substantially, which gave us both the confidence and a strong foundation from which to move forward.

Leave a Comment