How do you judge the success of a mission trip? – Final reflections from Ethiopia

I’m at the tail end of a 17 hour plane ride from Addis Ababa to Washington DC, and I hadn’t left the Addis airport before real life began to set in.

I found myself frustrated with the innumerable and interminable airport lines, inattentive flight attendants, and an inbox full of email.

And that’s really the trick of a mission trip, isn’t it? How do we avoid returning to regularity? How do we translate the experiences from the trip into transformation at home? How do we reset our routines and establish a new normal?

By purely utilitarian standards, mission trips are a horribly inefficient use of resources. My team donated and raised somewhere around $16,000 to spend a week with the Change boys, and that doesn’t include money spent on vaccinations, medications, and other preparations.

If the sole outcome of our trip was a one-week investment in the lives of 15 boys, then we’ve wasted our time and money. Those funds could have paid for a full-time mentor for each boy for a year.

But one thing that cannot be replicated by writing a check is the transformational experience that can be had when we step outside of our lives and luxuries and engage with those who hold a special place in God’s heart. In our final debriefing we discussed how our lives need to be different now that we’ve had this experience.

As I think through the trip, I am quite satisfied with how things went, but I won’t truly know how successful the trip was until months from now. I won’t truly know until transformation can be seen (or not) in the lives of these seven men.