There is much debate surrounding the concept of sending short-term work teams on mission trips. EduDeo is well aware of the issues surrounding cross-cultural missions and believes the HANDS program plays an important role in responsible, international development. When done correctly, HANDS trips are a proven way for schools to be established, communities to be strengthened and encouraged, and for young lives to grow in their knowledge of Jesus Christ.

It is important to acknowledge that poorly prepared teams may not be impacted long-term, and may do more long-term harm than good to the people they are trying to help. However, well-prepared teams can greatly benefit those they serve, as well as having a long-term impact in the lives of the team members.

Several of the main benefits and outcomes of a HANDS trip are that they:

Provide Necessary Funds

HANDS Teams bring significant resources into the country they are travelling to. First of all, the cost of a HANDS trip raises funds for the construction project, allowing the purchase of necessary building supplies and employing local labourers to take the lead on the project. Secondly, HANDS funds are also designated for logistics, which employs local labour to host teams by preparing food, managing guest accommodations, maintaining vehicles, and providing transportation, among other duties. Consistently sending teams to a location actually creates jobs that otherwise would not exist and, in many locations, hosting is a local industry in and of itself.

Approximately 300 people serve through EduDeo every year on a HANDS team, and a substantial amount of funds are raised through their efforts! A common observation is that much more building could take place if teams donated all their funds to the project instead of using some of the funds to travel to the location.

While EduDeo does have building projects that are completed solely by local labourers and are funded by generous individuals and groups, others feel called to give on a more participatory, relational level. Teams that actually travel to a location to participate in the work project tend to have the ability to raise more funds than a group that is just raising support because they have a more personal connection to the ministry. Many times HANDS teams have raised above and beyond the minimum amount of funds required, blessing the local partner organization with even more resources than expected!

Build the Body of Christ

Historically, the emphasis of short-term mission trips has been on the work that is accomplished. Today, the emphasis has shifted to be more holistic and relational. HANDS trips are not just about bringing critical resources — although those are needed — but focus largely on learning from, serving among, and sharing with local people. Instead of having the attitude that teams have everything figured out, an open heart and mind to learn from those in other countries is best, as they have much to share about spiritual vitality and dependence on God.

Many HANDS participants have shared incredible stories of how their lives were changed and how God used local believers to minister to their own needs! In this way, the Body of Christ can minister like never before to different needs within the body. For example, while the Western church has been blessed with finances and a long heritage of supporting missions, the African church has been blessed with a humble ability to trust God through trying times, often with a joyful, rhythmic spirit. We need each other.

Many communities are deeply encouraged by seeing others come to serve and work alongside them. Teams are guided by indigenous construction workers and are often hosted by local ministry leaders. It is not an "us and them" but it is an "us" — the united body of Christ working together.

Through HANDS, EduDeo strives to engage people in the work of a Christian school ministry in a developing country through a construction project. Teams are prepared prior to their trip to understand the purpose of and appropriate approach to short-term mission trips. EduDeo encourages working hard, but also taking time to discover how local people live and to discover the life stories of teachers and students. Ultimately, these experiences are about walking together with local people to understand their lives, their culture and to praise the blessing and grace that a common Saviour has poured out on us.

Encourage a Missional Perspective

HANDS trips are intended as a stepping stone in gaining a greater understanding of what it means to live as a follower of Jesus Christ in our world, both locally and internationally. EduDeo strives to assist the church in preparing Christians to live out their faith. There are many examples of people who first served internationally, and then were inspired to get involved in a local mission context as well.

Those who have participated in HANDS trips are encouraged to share their experience with their family, friends and community, inspiring others to be involved in different aspects of ministry as well. Their short-term participation in cross-cultural missions also serves to raise awareness of what long-term missionaries are doing in that country — ministry that their church may already, or begin to, support.

Actively Engage Supporters

HANDS trips give an opportunity for those who already support EduDeo's ministry around the world to become actively engaged themselves. Increasingly people are committing to going on mission trips because of the hands-on, personal experience. In order to address this growing desire, EduDeo has been very intentional about developing an appropriate and God-glorifying method of engaging with our partners around the world.

EduDeo provides instruction not only for people to help in a positive way, but also aligns teams with well-established and committed indigenous ministries already doing a great job on their own. With additional interaction and finances, these ministries truly are enabled to do so much more.

Give Dignity to the Poor

While participants are quick to pick up on the very physical and real changes that a school can bring to an impoverished community, there is another aspect of the HANDS program that is often not seen or understood. In the eyes of a local person it brings hope when groups of humble, servant-minded Christians travel to visit them.

The materially poor are often reduced to a statistic, marginalized, overlooked and, are told in many ways that they are not worthy. Having Canadians come to them, to learn from them, to work under them, and to worship with them gives many poor people a sense of worth and value — that they are good enough to visit. It motivates the teachers, the students and the community. While EduDeo fully understands the dependency and humiliation that can come from insensitive Canadian visitors with a "know-it-all" superior attitude, we have more often seen a personal pride and a sense of worth developed in local people because they are put in a position of honour by being a host.