5 Hacks That Will Take Your Mission Trip Experience From Good to Great
Don’t you love when people ask you this question:
“So what all do you need to do before you guys go on this mission trip?”
In your head you are probably thinking, the list is so long I don’t think you even want to know! If you answered honestly, that list would include things like passports, packing, fundraising, shopping, vaccines, team meetings, arrangements for when you are gone, how communication will work to the people back home, paperwork, transportation to the airport… the list goes on and on!
Then there is the list of things you need to do when you actually arrive to the destination: assign cabins (or let’s be honest, areas on the floor), assign VBS stations, unpack, make sure there is enough bottled water, check that the malaria nets have no holes in them, find places to use the restroom, organize where and what to eat, transportation, translation, devotions, lights out, get medicine for the kid who’s stomach already hurts… that list goes on and on, too!
Amidst this gigantic list of to-dos, there are five things I have discovered that have made all the difference in mission trips I have been a part of.
- Learn as much as you can about the culture and country you are visiting. Until you understand the culture you are visiting, you will observe everything through the eyes of a Westerner. Something may look one way to you because that’s how you understand it, but it could mean something completely different in that culture. Ask questions—a lot of questions. Don’t try and change the culture, but instead, try and understand it. My go to question is, “When we were at _____, I noticed _________. Can you help me understand what that means?”
- Invest in the staff on the ground. They are there serving 365 days out of the year. The biggest impact you can make is to invest in them, reenergize them, pray for them, and even train them. Your small investment in them will reinvigorate their energy, passion, and vision to keep working hard long after you leave. That will multiply your influence. Teams often focus on those they are serving rather then who they are serving with or for. Don’t forget the opportunity you have to minister to those alongside you as well.
- Highs & lows. It’s easy to finish a day of serving on the mission field, get back to the place you are staying, and just want to crash. But this time is extremely valuable when it comes to processing your day with your teammates. Simply having everyone go around and share their high & low from the day really helps team members give words to their experience. A high doesn’t only mean something good that happened; it could be something you really enjoyed or something that you learned. A low doesn’t always mean something bad; it could mean something that you observed or experienced that was difficult for you to comprehend or process. One of my favorite things that happens is when one person shares their high, and another person shares that same thing as their low. It gives perspective in how they each processed something, and helps the other see it from a different angle. Or when one person shares something that really impacted them, and another team member chimes in and says, "Yes! That was AWESOME! But guest what else happened after you walked out of the room..."
- Document your experience in as much detail as you can. You will never be able to tell a story in as much detail as you can right in the moment. So find a way to record it as it’s happening—a journal, a vlog, an audio recording. Nobody ever has to hear the recording or read the story, but it will serve as a reminder to you about how you felt in the moment. You will experience so much in such a short time that you will have to continue processing once you return home. If you document your days, you will have an easier time going back in time to re-live your experiences on the trip.
- Stay involved once you return home. Talk about this before leaving the mission field. No, I don’t mean you should talk about selling all of your stuff and moving across the world (although, God may call you to that). Figure out how you are going to stay connected to the people who are on the trip with you, the translators, or drivers, or ministry staff on the ground. Figure out how you can be part of training the next team or recruiting people for the next trip. Use your voice by telling stories of what you experienced. Continue learning about the culture once you return home. Look for the same needs in your neighborhood and take strides to meet them.
In the hustle and bustle of all the things you need to do in order to actually pull a mission trip off, don’t miss these five things. They will help take your mission trip experience from good to great, from short-term impact to long-term impact. [tweet this]