The Purpose of Missions is Not to “Fix” or “Save”

Jillian Kittrell


Summer is coming to a close. And the crowded city streets packed by oversized trucks with short-term mission teams in the bed are staring to slow down. Although teams come to Haiti year round, summer is by far our country’s busiest season to host foreigners who come to serve.

And that’s great.

And it’s not.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

There’s been a significant amount of open dialogue lately concerning the efficiency of short-term missions. Which is wonderful and much needed. If you’ve followed my blog for a while you know I teeter the fence. I am a product of short-term missions. Years of coming to serve in Haiti for a week or two out of my summers was what cultivated my love for this country and my calling to live here full time. If it weren’t for those visits, I may have never moved to the orphanage. Never have…

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Every Last Piece.

As a girl, it feels whiny & emotionally driven – at least it feels as if it will be taken that way – if I take a stand against porn. If I challenge the cultural norm, talk about the facts of how it harms, and try to give a reality check in what has become a norm in society.

So when a GUY shares Fight The New Drug or is straight up on the facts – scientific facts about the effects, or the trafficking industry, or fueling abuse – it makes a huge difference. It’s heard differently than my voice, the same facts are said but not seen as emotionally driven, and credibility comes with him more than me.

That’s just the way it is – sociology and psychology would agree with the difference.

So think.

I have white skin.

Imagine the difference if I use my voice to join the fight with others.

Because when I stand up to say, “Why are we still telling racist jokes?”, it isn’t taken as me “taking it personally”.

When I point out that it isn’t fair and it isn’t the same, the way my 6′ 5” white teenage brother can interact with the Reynoldsburg police versus 33% of our city’s population – it is not written off because “it always is a race issue with her”.

My honest observation and admission of my own blind spots and the reality that racism still happens can come off differently, and it will not be reacted to with a “slavery was years ago, get over it”.

My voice being used for a five minute conversation on systems and history and the bigger story and how it all plays into white people having an upper hand in many areas….it won’t be seen the same.

Every. Single. Piece. of us was stitched together intentionally, with purpose, and with a plan on redeeming spaces. Our wealth (whether we have managed it in a way where we feel wealthier than the rest of the world or not) – that piece is intentional. Our gender – intentional. Our peers, co-workers, families – intentional. The spaces we spend time in because our favorite food or hobby – intentional.

Our skin color – intentional.

Every. Last. Piece. is to be used with intention, for things bigger than us.


This is going to be short and only be the tip of the iceberg.

Friends, I just want to help more people understand something about poverty. Material poverty.

The cycle is not just poverty – someone comes alongside – long, deep process – finally get a step UP (a goat, a small business, a job, a tool so you can have a trade – YAY!

The cycle looks a lot like this (a glimpse – a GLIMPSE! I could make this SO much more detailed):

Poverty – someone comes alongside, or you take your own initiative – long, deep process and hard work and investment and dreams and hopes and standing up when falling – finally get a step UP – when someone asks how you’re doing a few weeks later, you respond you were robbed of that step up.


Poverty – someone comes alongside, or you take your own initiative – long, deep process and hard work and investment and dreams and hopes and standing up when falling – finally get a step UP – your family member gets sick, and everything goes to helping them. Every last drop. – (repeat the process….)….step UP again – a different family member needs help paying for a funeral, or school starting – (repeat the process……)

It is so much more. So much harder.

The resilience I see is ridiculous. The lack of motivation and apathy I sometimes run into, I can understand (after I get over being frustrated when someone doesn’t jump onto an opportunity). The optimism in some of my friend’s eyes humbles me, because my day is wrecked over changed plans and I still have a home and two big meals and financial security.

Hard working teenagers are robbed by peers that they know – peers that do not work hard, but are rewarded by quick theft and intimidation. These hard working teenagers, friends, are somehow always the ones encouraging ME. They teach ME how to love. They serve their community and neighbors way more than me.

My friends keep loving. Even after their own peers, community, sometimes family…may hurt their trust or use them or hurt them.

I process culture stress cycles and am fighting tooth and nail to break down walls of distrust and negativity,

and my friends, neighbors, and heroes….they are loving.


Getting back up again.

Still dreaming.

Still screaming out, “HE IS GOOD!”


Still looking me in the eye with that sparkle that shows up when there is positive affirmation or dreaming of the future around.

I am so prideful, I am so comfort-driven, I am so easily shaken, I am so lazy because life has ALLOWED me to be. And in this – I am so, so, so thankful that He would place me where I would learn and watch, over YEARS of this deep cycle, beautiful people teach me things that you would not be able to comprehend our sisters and brothers in humankind can do, withstand, fight through, and dare to dream in….because poverty is not simple, y’all.

He is still good, & this doesn’t get to have you

In “ministry” (I feel like that word gets overused, but oh well) – there will probably be moments when you feel used, betrayed, misunderstood, misrepresented. By another person in ministry (or the closely related ‘humanitarian work’). (This isn’t “elevating” ministry, but pointing out what could happen in an arena I naively thought was untouchable because it was full of Jesus followers)


Y’all – DON’T LET THESE HAVE YOU. Division does not get to win, bitterness does not get to win, mistrust does not get to win, unforgiveness does not get to win.


Let it refine you, let it slow you to examine YOUR faults and grow, and let it help you embrace Jesus as He calls you to forgive “as quickly & thoroughly as He did” (Ephesians).


I remember hearing this would happen and thinking, “Never!”

Look at lil’ fresh-outta-college Stephanie (and Dalinsky, then known as “the kid that tried to throw mangoes at us”)! Back in the times of wondering what possible bad things could happen or negative interactions could happen when chasing Jesus. Wouldn’t trade what’s happened since then for a thing – cause you know it’s ALL for good.

Whether it happens or not – He is good, and He is intentionally stitching life to thrive, grow, and give Him glory!

Your Presence Matters

Before we sign up to travel across the ocean (or as we prep to go, or when we return home) – let’s do the hard examination…… all my social circles look like me? Am I an advocate for brothers and sisters, am I seeking to understand and do life with other cultures wherever home is?
For however many mission trips took off in planes this summer – imagine the impact of every one of those lives being actively involved with all KINDS of people in their life.
*the above two paragraphs were a status. Then I just needed a better picture. Thus, blog. You didn’t need to know that detail, but now you do. Anyways….
There are deep, frustrating, disgusting roots in all kinds of social issues. A hashtag or shared story on any timeline will not be the change –
relationships will.
Presence will.
Seeking to understand rather than needing to be understood.
Using your voice in the middle of a conversation to validate the real feelings that your real friends have – the mother of a teenager with dark skin who is wringing her hands if his tail light is having issues, the friend who gets second looks walking through an airport because of an over-generalization that she cringes to be associated with, the co-worker who lets the racism-tinged Spanglish roll off their back because it’s so common.
Debates are not helping and they will not. Honestly they’re usually just people proclaiming their opinion in between pauses of waiting to talk again.
Facebook stances are nice and all, but they are not changing the way people interact in real life.
I am so tired and so hurting for hashtags of names associated with news headlines, and clicking for a closer examination KNOWING that there will be sorrow on the other side.
Our Jesus had a solution for injustice, for the unseen, for the torn down, for those of the other side of racism.
He went to them. Intentionally. (Passing through Samaria…an example we hear about once a month at least where I’m at)
Conversations started where food, water, and hang-outs naturally happen.
Genuine engagement in conversation.
Setting aside the agenda for a hot second for the face in front of us (what? Do we think Jesus didn’t have an agenda to follow – he was all hugs and rainbows? They were traveling somewhere when they stopped at the well – there was a plan and a place to be!).
Jesus was “over people” as He was God in the flesh, but he was NEVER stooping down to love. He was always coming alongside to laugh and enjoy a meal, to do life alongside, to soak up what the day had. Never, ever, ever did someone leave this man – who we can call Friend – and feel that they were a project. And shame on us because we do this. We do! I’m SURE I’ve done it. WHAT A KEY TO LOVING WELL IN THIS WORLD.
Hashtags won’t do it. “Sharing” won’t do it. JUST presence won’t do it.
Genuine, life-sharing, time together, breaking bread friendship……that is what is going to transform these spaces.
Oh, to be on new earth & CELEBRATE diversity and the wide spectrum of creation, His divine plan and creativity, and experiences of all walks. To learn from one another and share culture, to sharpen & sometimes cut off what we can see in each other that our subcultures have taught us outside of the bible, and to embrace and celebrate pictures of the gospel we would not see without diverse family and friends around us.
We are in the business of redeeming spaces. Let’s not wait for new earth & heaven to start to bring Home to the here and now.
Update: a day or two after posting this, I stumbled over this JGivens post from Rapzilla & it could not be a better fit to throw in here – so here it is.

Tumbling in My Head This Week

We seem to all be frustrated with where we are planted (and if you are not, then soak up some encouragement to pass on to someone else, because it’s potentially one of your friends that is frustrated).

We are burnt out, disappointed with the community we have been placed in, very aware of the crusty, dry patches of brown grass where we are while dreaming of the soft, green fields that are on the other side of what we are being held back from. We know that everyone around us has messed it up and we are the only ones aware of what needs to be done or the “holes” where we are. We are unappreciated, unseen, placed somewhere we don’t thrive, overwhelmed with silly pet issues that we don’t want to give a second of time to but that keep popping up. We were meant for more than this.

Even more in “ministry”, whatever that phrase means, it seems that of ALL the places…this has become one of the places full of opportunities for bitterness, frustrations, and apathy to grow.

But, Christ followers…our perspectives are so skewed.

MY perspectives get so screwed.

Since when does “light in the darkness” only apply to a meth house in West Columbus?

Why on earth do we apply promises of God everywhere BUT what our home base is?

How come inspirational quotes always instill images and dreams and gigantic hopes for “there” and never here and now?

I dream of being “planted” where light is needed and then roll my eyes at the frustration in the community of fam around me TODAY.

My retweets are aimed at world change and boldly proclaim the impossible, and then I set my phone down and literally whine like a child about the mountain in front of me that is written on my schedule.


How do I miss the obvious so easily, and for such long amounts of time? How embarrassing to write this even – as I clearly have missed points that scripture and teaching and the Holy Spirit easily make clear before my own “breakthrough” to actually hear and apply it.

FOLLOWER OF CHRIST. As you and I say, “I am so in love with Jesus”, WE ARE PLANTED.

We are light in the darkness. WE ARE EVEN LIGHT IN THE LIGHT. There is darkness everywhere as we live this side of redemption, so don’t put all the hope and dreams into “light in the darkness” and applying that truth to a mission into a brothel in India and not into the inter-personal communication and menial job tasks of even fellow Kingdom chasers.

We are planted to transform spaces around us.

Fed up where you’re at?


That means you can buckle down and have a PURPOSE where you are to DO something about it.

If YOU are fed up with it, imagine…won’t EVERYONE benefit from you lighting up and transforming that space?

We are designed and placed to take fallen, broken spaces and come alongside the King of Kings and Author of the Universe as he delicately and boldly (somehow at the same time) TRANSFORMS them into what they were created to be.

“Peace: If you are in a city or a community that is broken, where people are burned out or spiritually lost—stay as long as you can.” -@timkellernyc

One of those “it’s haunting me” (as in, with 23,145 verses in the Bible how does THE SAME KEEP COMING UP) ideas in Scripture for MONTHS has been Revelation 2. There’s a church that is great at good deeds, perseverance, their theology of suffering…..
And Jesus says, “But I have this one complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” (2:4)……
I KNOW that I would be different in the middle of my frustrations and apathy and everything in between if I listened to this. I KNOW that just waking up would have me going, “there is an ADVENTURE to EMBRACE in today”. Imagine. Imagine what He will do if I do this. Imagine what will happen when the Holy Spirit answers my prayers and helps me get here.
And those in ministry….special note. We will be SO EFFECTIVE in changing ourselves that the words we are tempted to say and the internal battles on how to change the subculture become IRRELEVANT as God NATURALLY transforms the spaces around us after first transforming US. This is where I say we can be light even in the light.
Not only CAN we….it’s that we WILL.
He is VERY clear on what He made us for. Transforming spaces.
Whoosh. The Lord is good.