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Missions 101

Should I Pass Out My Email on a Short-Term Missions Trip - Part 2

Oct. 5, 2016By: Jeff AtherstoneAuthor Bio

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation on yesterdays post look at the impact of passing out your personal contact information on short-term mission trips. Jeff Athersone is a missionary of Training Leaders International and serves as Chancellor of African Renewal University.

This past month I know two Ugandans who sent out some heart wrenching emails to Americans who had recently served on a short-term team. One email was a prayer request for a young girl who was raped on her way home from church. The other email was from a young man who desperately needed surgery. Both emails tugged at the reader’s hearts so they forwarded the emails on to me asking how they could help or send money.

I have had this happen a number of times before so I am used to following these types of situations up. I have learned not to lead in with what I heard but instead just to ask how the person is doing. In each case both of the people I called were surprised that I was calling them and seemed surprised that I would think anything was wrong.

The reason being both were working on an email scam and didn’t know that I had seen their emails. Here is how it works.

1) The short-term visitor and national exchange contact info (email, facebook, etc).
2) A few messages are sent to establish contact and to thank the visitor for coming to Uganda.

3) The national reports a crisis that they are indirectly involved in to gauge the emotional response.
4) Final step, they report a crisis directly involving themselves.
5) Now the American is deeply involved and 99 times out of 100 the American asks "How can I help?" and the exchange of money begins. Notice that in steps. 1-4 there is absolutely no request for money.

At this point you might be wondering, “Is this really a scam?”

Even though there is no request for money I do believe it is a scam. When the national doesn’t report the situation to a national ministry or missionary on the ground you have to wonder “why are they not seeking help locally?” In a poor country like Uganda where corruption is the norm most of the people sending these emails are looking for a quick buck and that is why they are passing by the local ministries that can use their understanding of the culture and person to make an informed decision.

As a short term visitor one of the greatest things you can do is to empower the local church and local ministries by referring these requests back to them and asking them to discern what is the best way to help. The majority of the time money is not the answer but instead there is need for counseling and discipleship which isn’t a quick fix but it sure has better results. If the local ministry does agree that the problem is money the best thing to do is to give through the local ministry so that there is accountability and the person receiving help isn’t tempted to create more problems in the future to collect more funds.

When in doubt I always encourage people to turn the tables. If a Ugandan was visiting the US and they got to meet the people in your church would you believe that the people in your church could receive the best counsel, support and encouragement through emailing the Ugandan once they returned home? Or do you think that the staff of your church in the US is better equipped to handle the challenges facing the people in your church?

Jeff is the Vice-Chancellor of Africa Renewal University. One of the greatest needs in Africa is the training and mentoring of pastors. Before coming to Uganda Jeff served as a Pastor at Cornerstone Community Church of Moorpark and has been involved in pastoral ministry since 1998. Jeff has a Bachelors Degree in Theology and a Masters of Divinity from The Masters College and Seminary. He lives in Uganda with his wife Christine and their two sons Noah and Kadin.

Tags:  short-term missions
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