harnessing the power of photography for good

Oaxaca Medical Team:: Bang for the Buck(or Peso)

Dave Miller, executive director of Adventures in Life (AIL), was talking with one of the men yesterday in San Felipe Guila, Oaxaca, Mexico.  That’s where this years Medical Team has been ministering, today and yesterday.

He asked, “why are you guys here?  Nobody comes here (to San Felipe Guila).”

If you look on the map, there really isn’t much there.  Most of the men in the town have left to find work in the city, near the border or in the U.S.  Folks leave the town, they don’t come here for vacation, or even for missions trips.

Dave and I were talking today about his question, and it really was a good question that opened itself up to further questions of how short term missions is done across the globe.

I don’t profess to know much about short term missions philosophy and methodology, but I know what I’ve seen over the years as a photographer for Miles Ahead ministries and other groups that do short term missions.

The idea of, “bang for the buck” is an interesting concept.  Dave shared a story with me of an missions leader telling him that trips with AIL are “cheap” in comparison to other missions groups.  That he loved what AIL is doing in Mexico and he could see that real help is happening through Adventures in Life ministries.  Bang for the buck!

But…what AIL does isn’t flashy, fashionable or trendy.  Not that short term missions should be any of those things, but that missions leader was looking for something with more “show,” that would look good to the church that sent the group.  They wanted big extravagant events and projects that look good and project well when doing a power point presentation to the missions folks and pastors.

What I’ve witnessed over the last 3 years, in the time I’ve been coming to photograph AIL ministries, is relationship and community building.  A belief that working with local churches and pastors, and long term missionaries like Pastor Rolando in San Felipe Guila, is smarter than trying to come to an area and “do something” big for big’s sake.

Pastor Rolando & his wife

Adventures in Life understands that those in the trenches know better than any missions director in the states.  That bigger isn’t always better when it comes to doing short term missions.  By asking those who are ministering long term in the field, and living alongside them in community, Adventures in Life can partner with and help these missionaries better reach those who don’t know Jesus yet.

Unfortunately, too many U.S. churches want the big dog and pony show that looks good on video and looks good when sharing from the pulpit.

That’s not what Adventures in Life is all about.

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