Buying Tacky Souvenirs on a Mission Trip

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Because there are TONS of people out there who are smarter and funnier than we are…

Here’s some thoughts from Jeff Goins (an incredibly awesome blogger who lives in Nashville) who guest blogged for Jon Acuff’s STUFF CHRISTIANS LIKE. You’re on, Jeff. Bring it home…

Buying tacky souvenirs on a mission trip. By Jeff Goins

On every mission trip, there’s always “That Guy.” You know him. He wears all the inappropriate apparel-wear you were strictly forbidden to bring. He sports all his favorite teams’ jerseys and ball caps and high-fives everyone in sight.

That Guy makes inappropriate cultural references that would get you speared in the wrong company. He has a Spanish dictionary in his backpack and knows just enough of the native tongue to get you into trouble with local authorities.

Yeah, That Guy. With a capital “G.” (He deserves a proper noun, since we all know him so well.)

Then, just when things get really bad, the worst part comes. The moment you’ve been dreading since the plane left American soil finally arrives.

It’s the last day of the trip. Your team has done a solid week’s worth of ministry, and what does That Guy want to do?

Buy souvenirs.

Which is fine and totally understandable. Except that he’s been buying souvenirs and snacks and all kinds of superfluous trinkets the whole trip. And he’s not even buying the good ones — you know, the ones you’re pretty sure were made by actual natives?

Who knew you could find a Nintendo Gameboy knock-off in Ecuador? That Guy.

Who spends all his missionary money on pirated DVDs and Gatorade? Well, That Guy.

And who has a knack for finding the ugliest, tackiest, made-in-Malaysia flamingo wind chimes? Right. That Guy, again. The one who buys sombreros in Africa and drops his hard-earned cash on shot glasses at the airport.

And the worst part is that we can all be That Guy.

After all, how will people know you were building houses in Mexico if you don’t return with a tie-dyed hammock?

What will St. Peter do with you if you’re not wearing a beaded necklace from Tanzania (but made in Taiwan)? Nothing. He will have absolutely nothing to do with you. Do not pass through the pearly gates. Do not collect $200. The beads are essential (especially if one looks like a fish).

And let’s not forget about your church — all those elderly ladies who forked up thousands of bucks from their retirement funds to send you to Kazakhstan.

Do you know how to make those old ladies cry? Come home without a single souvenir. Not a ceramic bowl nor walking stick. Just show up with your stories, and you will see first-hand what it means to grieve the Holy Spirit.

When you think about it, life ultimately comes down to crucial moments. And this is one of them — that final day of a mission trip — when you will have to ask yourself, “Will I be like the widow who gave her last mite to that which mattered most?”

I hope you will.

I hope you’ll show those old ladies their investment wasn’t for naught.

I hope you’ll come back with evidence of a true kingdom impact, showing your friends, family, and the Almighty himself that you were a wise steward.

Of course, I’m talking about the only souvenir that matters — the only thing worth a trip to the Third World. That’s right: a hand-painted, bobble-head turtle that sits on the dashboard of your car.

In light of eternity, everything else is just dross.

What’s the worst souvenir you ever brought back from a mission trip?

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