Do No Harm

After reading an article titled “Do No Harm”

This article really struck me and pleased me at the same time.  I’m not exactly sure why, but I have this negative connotation towards mission groups.  I loved hearing [the article’s author] Dennis Smith’s sharp critique on this subject. I can’t quite pin where this judgment for mission trips stems from for me, but as I have grown and have expanded my views on religion, the thought of going on a church-based trip – with the belief that it is a “God-given right” to help people in Central America – with a group who, most likely, is mostly white, does not seem very enlightening to me.  While I was reading Smith’s article, I couldn’t help but think about all of the week-long mission groups that have passed through CASAS; most of them white, most of them with the same sized luggage that I brought for an entire semester, and most of them with little to no Spanish skills. This article, while it brought more views and a great critique to the table about week-long mission trips, did not make me feel uncomfortable. I maybe felt embarrassed for the culture that we Americans bring to others, like Guatemala’s hospitable culture.  I think that’s one of the biggest setbacks I have as a student being here in Guatemala. It’s hard for anyone to set their culture aside and embrace the culture surrounding them, but I’ve truly tried to make a conscious choice to be aware of the culture around me and be respectful of it.

I’m not sure if I’m correct, but the biggest “lesson” that I take away from this reading is, if you aren’t willing to take the time to appreciate and learn about other cultures, a mission trip trying to “help” the “poor third world country” is really doing more harm than anything else.  To me, it only reiterates the subconscious dominance we feel with our American culture.

-Lori Armstrong