Do missions trips provide lasting change?

Haiti Orphanage

Two girls in a rural Haitian orphanage with lunch (two pieces of bread brought by UN soldiers) and wearing new clothes recently given to them from a visiting missions team

I just returned from Haiti after 5 days doing video production work for an amazing organization, KORE Foundation. This year I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia and Haiti, seeing extremely rough conditions and unimaginable poverty. With each trip, I get a jolt of reality. While it’s not my reality, I’m faced with the reality that the majority of the world doesn’t know my life. The stats are staggering and we’ve all heard them:

  • 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
  • At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
  • Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
  • The average Haitian eats only one meal a day, meaning many do not eat.
  • 70% of Haitians do not have electricity.
  • 90% of Haitians do not have running water.
  • 80% of Haitians lack adequate sanitation.

But as big as the numbers are, the statistics are hard to grasp. We don’t see it, so we can’t believe it. It isn’t until I see it firsthand as I did this week. I don’t get it until I see a child in an orphanage pumping water from a shallow, contaminated well and drinking water that is so dark you can’t see through it. When I hold an orphan who is very sick and has been lying alone for hours on a piece of plywood that is his bed. With no medicine available, no parents to rush him to the ER, he is alone. When I hold that child, I really get the statistic of 147 million orphans in the world. The one face makes the statistic real.

A tiny baby girl at a Haitian orphanage

A tiny baby girl at a Haitian orphanage. At 8 months, she was nearly the weight of my newborn babies.

I’ve had these experiences numerous times in life. I come home and I hold my kids close. I give a little extra to my favorite causes. I am truly grateful for what I have. But inevitably, life takes over and I forget. I start to think about the things I want. I feel sorry for myself when I don’t have “enough.” I lose perspective.

I’m always grateful to have a fresh dose of a new reality. But I don’t want to lose it. I want to model for my children what it means to live a selfless life. I want to be grateful that I live a reality that most people will never experience.

How do you keep a perspective of gratitude when the world we live in fights to draw us back to selfishness and entitlement?


  • Kristymwhitten

    This is so true and I would love to know the answer to this question. With the holidays upon us I continue to face an internal battle that rages every year. Do I REALLY need anything for Christmas from my husband and kids when I know that money could help meet daily needs of others in our community or around the world. Is it really better to give than receive. Receiving is so much fun and I try to teach that to our children but do I really believe it? With our “own” orphans still struggling in an orphanage this year I will say I have opted to see that money go to purchasing animals for farmers in Africa. I just hope next Christmas when we have our girls home it won’t ALL be a distant memory.

  • Mshlefler

    I’ve been all over the world in similar situations and struggle with the same thing. American culture is so strong. What a good reminder in the midst of such a commercial season.

  • Shannon Litton

    You’re so right, Mindy. Christmas is an especially tough time to keep perspective.

  • Shannon Litton

    I’m hoping that being aware is the first step. I know we both truly want our kids to understand what it means to give.

  • Stephanie Petersen

    I love, love, love your words. I work pretty closely with a group in rural India and I have often ask myself it really matters. If all you ever do is change one life…you’ve changed that world for them. Keep it up! God bless and Merry Christmas! We are kindred spirits. I would love to adopt someday. Thankfully we are able to sponsor a couple of beautiful kids and someday hope to bring them home. How are things going with the beautiful boys?

  • Shannon Litton

    Thanks, Stephanie! So glad you can relate to my thoughts. India is actually on my list of one of the next places I’d like to go.

    Things are going really well with the boys. Some days have their challenges but we feel so blessed.