Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guilty of This?

Number 815 from the Stuff that Christians Like:

Becoming an expert on Africa (or whatever country you recently visited) after a 6-day missions trip.

“Please tell everyone that our streets are not chock full of lions.”

That’s the sentiment a reader in South Africa wanted me to share. Apparently, he felt like Christians in America sometimes believe Africa is very similar to the Disney movie, “Swiss Family Robinson.”

Remember that one? They lived in a tree house and ate coconuts and zebra. They had monkey butlers and were constantly worried about wild animals and/or pirates.

Although the pirate phenomenon is making a spirited comeback, I’m almost positive some of us have some backwards opinions of Africa. But you know what’s even worse?

People who become experts on Africa after a 6-day mission trip.

This is the time of year when they start coming back from trips and regaling us with their tales of massive missionary magnitude. Soon they will return from a short hop overseas. How do you spot them in your church? How do you see them coming? Here’s how:

6 ways to tell your friend has become an “overnight missionary expert.”

1. They temporarily wear some wicked awesome sandals.

Mission trip sandals, something I’ve chronicled before, come in two varieties: woven and rubber. The woven ones appear to made of some sort of rope and actually look painful. My wife and I saw a guy with bloody feet wearing these the other night. He was limping. The rubber ones are more comfortable but only come in two colors: rainbow and bright rainbow.

2. They use the phrase, “So American.”

This might be the worst one on the list because it attempts to shame you for something you’ve done. Sometimes you’ll see it in the comments on SCL. I’ll write about money and then someone will immediately say, “That is so American to think that way.” Or they might use the variation, “Well, in the West …” What they usually don’t tell you is that they spent all 32 years of their life, minus the six days they were on a mission trip, living in Ohio. Which is in America.

3. They pretend there’s a household need for a machete.

87% of all men who go on mission trips buy machetes. Like how I felt when I saw two Lamborghinis racing on the highway the other night, something about a machete makes you feel like an 8-year old little boy again. You get giddy with the possibility of actually owning a sword. But if your friend starts using it to whack away at yard work, they might be taking it a little too far.

4. They convert everything into foreign currency.

Never go to a Starbucks with a mission trip expert. They will inevitably look at your four dollar coffee and mumble, “Hope that week’s worth of wages is delicious.” To be kind, respond with a simple, “I’ll pray for you.” To be a jerk say, “I’ll stop drinking coffee when your wife stops wearing that blood diamond.” (That’s a horrible thing to say, because ultimately both issues need to be addressed.)

5. They use the phrase, “used to live.”

I spent about 25 days or so in Costa Rica. Once at a dinner party, I told someone I used to “live in Costa Rica.” My wife, who was unfortunately within hearing distance, burst into laughter. I hadn’t lived there. I had visited there. Briefly. If your friend uses weird math to pretend they were on the trip for a long time, like when the ex-coach of Tennessee said he really enjoyed “the 13 months at Tennessee,” you know someone is faking it. (As if saying “13 months” makes folks feel less like you were jumping ship after a year. Might as well convert it into weeks and say “I was a great coach here for 56 weeks.”)

6. They are constantly dragging you out to restaurants.

My wife and I once lived in a fancy neighborhood outside of Boston. On our first day there, our neighbor, a professor, came over and said, “Do you guys like Southern Cambodian cuisine.” Now clearly, if you know me, you know I prefer Southeastern Cambodian. I actually just order by longitude and latitude, I am that cultured. Not really, but if your friend suddenly refuses to go to Applebee’s because “they don’t have good breadfruit,” be worried.

I write this list not because I hate missionary experts, but because I’ve been this guy. I went to Dominica once, probably one of my top three favorite Lesser Antilles, and that entire list happened except for number 6. I had rainbow sandals. I found three machetes in my garage yesterday. And I once said, “Our Western culture doesn’t have a mourning process that leads to real healing.” I wrote this list because I am this list.

But it’s incomplete. Honestly, what self-respecting Christian blogger ends a list with six items?

How about you? Got the seventh idea?

Have you ever known a missionary expert?

Have you ever been one?

I find this hilarious because this is so true, and I am guilty of several of these and more.


  1. Ok, I'm definitely guilty of #4, although not to the "guilt someone" extent. I was guilty of #6 *way* before The Philippines! I want to try a different cuisine every Friday night; drives my brother crazy! He would just as soon stay home and order in pizza.

  2. Love this... I will decline commenting because surely some of my short-term missions friends will recognize themselves and I'll be in trouble. hehe Great post though!