Measuring the Worth of the Journey

Jun 22, 2009

Two days into my trip to Haiti and I started to question my presence there.

In the months leading up to our departure, I had hopes of making an impact on a country and people who could use some help. However, after 24 hours of seeing firsthand what I’d read about, the enormity of the need made my idealistic notions seem grossly insignificant. It was like emptying my water bottle into the ocean, hoping my contribution would somehow affect it’s depth. I felt foolish.

Overwhelmed, I toyed with the following questions:

Why am I here?
With a need so great, does the presence of one person (or even 20) matter?
Am I really so arrogant to think I could ride in on my white horse and rescue a nation?
That being said, are short-term mission trips just an Americanized egocentric attempt to grasp at a piece of significance?
And, ultimately, if that’s true, are they worth the time, effort and financial expenditure?

Perspective is often honed with the passing of time. Now that I am a week out from Haiti, I’d answer these questions differently than I might have a month ago or even while I was sitting under the mango tree on the New Missions base.

My doubt and questions revealed I was evaluating the worthiness of the journey by the tangibility of results. I wanted to deliver food and see hunger disappear; pray over sick bodies and see them instantly whole; pick up trash and build buildings that would increase pride of ownership. Then, with a list of accomplishments, the trip would be worthwhile and my significance secure.

However, I spent a week in Haiti and the country I left behind is still plagued by hunger, disease, poor leadership, filth and overpopulation. I may have passed out rice and soap and clothes, but those will run out within days. Pouring out my water bottle did nothing to impact the depth of need.

And then Isaiah 58 whacked me upside the head. God didn’t ask me to spend myself on behalf of the hungry as long as I can see quantifiable results. He just said to do it. I wanted to see proof that my expenditure was well invested. Ultimately, I was making it all about ME. I wanted to feel good and know that I’d made a difference. So, in answer to at least one of my questions, YES, I really was that arrogant. And then God drove it home:

I want you to pour your water bottle into the ocean of need without attempting to measure the impact. I just want you to do it. Because I asked you to. Obedience—not results—is how I measure your success.

We’ve been indoctrinated to only do those things that bring some kind of immediate, satisfying and quantifiable result. We post blog articles that generate traffic. Create church programs that bring in the most people. Develop products that sell. Write books that will be a bestseller. We have become suckers for a numbers game. And although I’m a business person who understands the bottom line, I still believe …

The most worthy endeavors often never, never make sense on paper.


  1. Chrystie Cole

    This was another awesome post. I love your honesty. Definitely hit home with me. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Michele

    Thanks, Chrystie. 🙂


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