Ready to Go
Five ways to prepare for your mission trip
Want to see your short-term mission bear fruit, not only in your own life but also the lives of those you serve and serve alongside? How can you make that happen? What could get in the way? Thousands have gone before you asking the same questions. Theyâ€™ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that to get the most out of a missions trip, you need to go prepared.
So take the trip seriously enough to prepare well. That will pay rich dividends both in terms of what you get out of the experience and in your capacity to bless others. And itâ€™s true whether youâ€™re going to Timbuktu or Tennessee, for ten months or ten days.
1. Get organized.
Get out your calendar, make a list on your phone, or grab a marker and write on your mirror or white board. What are you responsible for on a practical level?
- Are there sessions to attend? Deadlines to meet?
- What about immunizations or insurance, a passport and/or visa, plane tickets, or hotel reservations?
- Who should you be talking to or ask for permission, help, or prayer?
Often, mission trip leaders or sending organizations will provide detailed instructions to direct you. Make note of what has to happen. Then put it somewhere you will see it. That way the have-to-doâ€™s and want-to-doâ€™s are less likely to pile up too high or slip right past you.
2. Start a mission trip journal.
Put your expectations and reflections on paper, not only while you travel but before and after as well. Journaling will help you process whatâ€™s going on in your head and heart and better communicate to others what you feel and what you discover along the way, as well as noting how God is at work. Start with questions like these:
- Why do I think God has me going on this trip?
- What do I expect it will be like?
- What fears or concerns do I have?
- How am I praying about this journey? How would I like others to be praying for me?
3. Get to know your teammates.
Mission trips usually involve living and working closely with others, often under circumstances that include some measure of discomfort, confusion, and pressure. Grow together rather than apart by establishing an atmosphere of trust and transparency. Learn in advance about each others' backgrounds, hopes, concerns, preferences, and values. Intentional efforts to build relationships and work through differences or misunderstandings can lead to friendships that last a lifetime.
Even when you travel with members of your own family or people you know well, it helps to give everyone a chance to share their thoughts about the trip and listen well to one another. You may have a different perspective, but offer each other respect and support.
4. Learn about where youâ€™re going.
In much the same way you show respect to those you serve with, you can honor your hosts and their community by learning about their context, history, and way of life as well as the conflicts or issues they face today. You could start by learning the names of the places you will be and the people with whom youâ€™ll be working. If they speak a different language, learn some common phrases and how to use them before you go. A basic understanding of common cultural differences may help you, too.
Even in a context close to home you may see or hear many things you donâ€™t understand. Be patient with what doesnâ€™t make sense to you. Look for your chance to ask questions about whatâ€™s going on or what it means. And keep serving.
5. Make some new friends.
Itâ€™s worth noting that in todayâ€™s multicultural world you donâ€™t have to get on an airplane to meet someone from a different culture, ethnicity, country, or religion. If your mission trip is taking you to another culture or country, you might be able to meet and develop relationships with people from that culture or a similar background in your own hometown or a nearby city. Look for a way to do that. If possible, attend a church service for members of a cultural or language group like the one youâ€™ll visit. International markets and restaurants also welcome those who come to get a taste before leaving home.
Finally, remember that all the preparation in the world does not eliminate risk and ambiguity. A mission trip is inevitably a step out into the unknown. But you are in good hands. May God richly bless you as you seek and serve Him!
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