My husband and I both grew up on opposite ends of the state, but both lived near train tracks.
I remember laying in my bed at night and hearing in the far distance trains passing through our little northern Indiana town. I never knew the individuals that rode on those trains, and I never thought about them either, but my husband did.
My husband has always been a giver. A giver of his time, finances, advice when solicited, and a lot of corny jokes (even when not solicited!).
So, when my husband proceeded to tell me this story long after we began dating, I was not surprised by what I heard. To him, the circumstances surrounding his story were no big deal. But, to me, as a girl that grew up in privileged circumstances, the story had a big impact on me and told me a lot about him as a person.
His story also solidifies the excuse that people often use when asked if they would ever go on an international mission trip: "I think there are too many people here that need help. We don't have to fly across the world to help people. There are people starving in our backyards!"
Jimmy, my husband, loved living by the train tracks. He would sit in his backyard and converse with the "hobo's" that would hitch rides on the trains. It's hard to imagine, as a parent, allowing a child to hang out in the backyard with strangers that probably didn't have very clean backgrounds, but the times were different 40 years ago.
Jimmy would make his new friends peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to tide them over until their next meal. I can only imagine the conversations that went on between them. More so than that, I can't imagine what those men thought about Jimmy. He was a little boy spending his coveted boyish time, not to play baseball or ride his bike, but to invest in them and listen to what they had to say. All the while explaining to his parents the reasons why he wanted to use the families bread and peanut butter to feed them.
Now, I doubt that when people voice this excuse, they are literally claiming that there are actual people starving in their backyard, but I know what they mean.
There are so many opportunities for us to help others right where we live. It's amazing how someone can drive from one side of town to another side of town and experience a drastic change in living conditions and circumstances. Thank goodness there are wonderful people, churches, and organizations that are passionate about helping people right where they live.
We are all called for different purposes and I respect those that give their hearts and souls to the needs in their immediate areas; however, I believe there is a difference in the validity of this excuse when used.
I got the title for this excuse, "I think there are too many people here that need help. We don't have to fly across the world to help people. There are people starving in our backyards", from two different circumstances that happened to my family personally.
A flight attendant that was working on the 14-hour flight we took from Los Angeles to Taiwan used these words almost verbatim. She had inquired as to why such a big group of Americans were traveling to Myanmar. When I explained our mission, she had the nerve to verbalize this exact excuse to me. For future reference, don't ever pick a fight with an overweight and hungry 40-year-old American woman traveling 14 hours on a flight in the same pair of sweatpants she had been wearing for 24 hours.
And the second story:
My daughter had asked someone close to her if they would consider sponsoring an orphan from the orphanages she had visited and worked. These children had stolen a huge part of her heart, and she wanted to do whatever she could for them. Excuse #2 was their response. For future reference, this is a great way to crush a teenage girls spirit and the respect she has for you, especially when she is not able to verbalize a time when you actually donated your time, money, or skills to help someone else.
My point in all of this is if you are going to use this excuse, make sure it is valid according to the way in which you live your life; otherwise, just be honest.
If participating in an international medical mission trip is not what you feel God has called you to do, then don't do it. Dig deep into how you are contributing to others in this world and consciously make a decision to give however you feel fulfilled.
But, in the meantime, please encourage and support those that feel called to go on international mission trips. Pray for them, donate supplies (even a toothbrush can make a difference!), and appreciate the fact that they have felt called to participate.
The need for others helping others is everywhere. Across the world or in your backyard, it doesn't matter where you choose to hand out your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just do it!