Dancing with an Elephant

photo credit: buzzfeed.com

I’m reading the book, When Helping Hurts by Fikkert and Corbett.  The authors work with a non-profit organization called “The Chalmers Center” whose purpose is to alleviate poverty around the world.  I highly recommend this book.  It has really opened my eyes to the good intentions which are so often blown through ignorance.  One prevalent example of well-intentioned waste among Christians is short term mission trips.  Consider the following from the book:

For example, missions expert Miriam Adeney relates a story told to her by an African Christian friend: Elephant and Mouse were best friends. One day Elephant said, “Mouse, let’s have a party!” Animals gathered from far and near. They ate. They drank. They sang. And they danced. And nobody celebrated more and danced harder than Elephant. After the party was over, Elephant exclaimed, “Mouse, did you ever go to a better party? What a blast!” But Mouse did not answer. “Mouse, where are you?” Elephant called. He looked around for his friend, and then shrank back in horror. There at Elephant’s feet lay Mouse. His little body was ground into the dirt. He had been smashed by the big feet of his exuberant friend, Elephant. “Sometimes, that is what it is like to do mission with you Americans,” the African storyteller commented. “It is like dancing with an Elephant.” When Helping Hurts, Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett (Kindle 2315-2320)

Due to our considerable advantages, Christians in the west can easily develop a “god complex” when it comes to helping the disadvantaged.  Our inflated sense of significance can cause untold harm to the people we hope to “save.”  Short term mission trips can do some good, but most believers in the west just don’t know how to dance gently.  If you have a heart for the poor, and I hope that you do, please read this book.

By Nathan Wilkerson

Holding on for dear life.


  1. We need to teach others how to dance before going on those trips. Sometimes we are guilty of sending people who are marginal believers or not even believers at all. In some way we hope the trip will lead them deeper into belief. This kind of thing leads to the blind leading the blind which Jesus warned against. SPiritual blind people leave dead mouses all over the floor.


    1. Thanks for your input. I agree. Check out the book for some great ideas on how to maximize STM’s. I have no affiliation with the authors and receive no compensation for the endorsement. It’s just a really great book.


      1. I will definatly check it out. You are about the fourth blog I have seen that has mentioned it. Thanks. ooohhh – also thanks for reading my post “how sad.” It helped me find your blog.


  2. I think the problem is that we don’t have the right purpose in doing short term missions. I mean if we had a plan that could actually allow STM’s to have a significant effect on the people group of the area then STM’s wouldn’t be a total lose. May I suggest that a possible solution could be, have people who are leader/teachers go to these foreign countries and train a small group of locals on how to be leaders in turn making them disciple makers. Doing STM’s you would probably have enough time to at least do something like that. Now be gracious with me in my idea, as i have never put it into effect nor do I know of anyone who has (haven’t done any research though)


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