Blog Book Review

Book Review: A Just Mission – Laying Down Power & Embracing Mutuality

Picture taken by me

A Just Mission is about how churches in The West go out into the world on short-term mission trips but rarely do they have people from the countries they are going to leading these trips. Mekdes Haddis uses her experience as an immigrant; she’s from Ethiopia and came to the US for college and culture to provide solutions to better mission trips. For example, she gives suggested solutions from training and development, mutual benefits instead of one-sided, and inclusivity of indigenous leaders on the missions’ team.

There were a few things that stood out to me in the book. First, in chapter three, she said, “We are not made to objectify one another; we are made for holy community, to equally reflect God’s beauty to one another.” This comes from having her hair touched without permission only because of curiosity. This is something I’ve heard people of color experience all the time. But as Mekdes mentioned, she’s never had the urge to touch straight hair, and hair has a lot of representation in many cultures.

Chapter five is about decolonizing short-term mission trips, and there were a few things in this chapter that stood out to me. First, she and her husband are very intentional about which organizations their money is going to. She writes, “For my husband and me, choosing to support mission organization has been a difficult journey because we know too well how culturally and spiritually unprepared people mischaracterize or demean our people. For the most part, we have shifted our financial support from Western institutions that promised to end poverty to those that invested in indigenous leadership.”

On pages 112 and 113, she includes a few steps to ensure good practices of short-term mission trips, and number six is something I’ve felt was always weird. Mekdes tells us to leave our cameras at home or hire a professional photographer from the community and support a small business. I have always felt strange when teams go on mission trips, take pictures and videos, and post them all over their social media. I understand wanting to show others their work in order to motivate others to get involved as well, but have you stopped to think that maybe they don’t want to be photographed?

I went with my church once to feed the homeless at a local park, and there was a person taking pictures and videos of us praying over people and handing out sandwiches. One of the persons receiving the food told them no pictures, which made me feel a little awkward. What are the intentions behind our actions? Are we doing this from the good of our hearts, or are we doing this to show off our good deed for the day to get an appraisal from others?

Matthew 6:3 (NIV) says, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your hand is doing.”

I hold this verse close to my heart, and I don’t post or boast of it when volunteering for certain things or making donations to charities, but that’s me. Everyone is different.

In chapter eight, she touches on the issue of immigration because a report from Religion News Service shows that 75% of white evangelical Protestant Republicans believe immigrants are invading American society. Mekdes writes, “This is an area where we need to have a clear stance, because it would be hypocritical to send the very same people who don’t want immigrants among them to the homeland of those they despise with the ‘gospel.’” Of course, this stance is close to my heart because of the work I’m doing with providing a platform for immigrants to share their immigration journey in order to change the narrative of immigration to a more compassionate and empathetic way.

Overall, this book has a lot of information and resources to improve how American churches approach mission trips. And I believe anyone who has thought about going on a mission trip, has gone on a mission trip, or attend a church that goes on mission trips should read it.

With Love, Heidy

What are your thoughts on the way American churches approach mission trips? Do you think any improvements need to be made? Why or why not?

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