6 Things You Should NOT Do on Your Mission Trip
Anyone who has been on a mission trip before knows not to do things like go off on your own, give your passport to someone else to hold, drink non-bottled water, point and laugh… you get the picture.
But over the last 20 mission trips I have been part of, I have learned there are other things that you absolutely should not do that aren’t as obvious.
- Don’t collect a bunch of stuff to bring over. Crayons, notebooks, school supplies, and the like. Yes, this might be what they need or even what the ministry requested, but you can actually make a bigger difference in that culture by bringing the money over to purchase the products in country. That simple act not only provides the ministry with what they need, it stimulates the local economy as well. It allows you to help more people. You help the girls selling pencils on the street. You help the woman who has her own shop and is barely making ends meet. You help the men who work in the factory that makes the paper. The list goes on and on.
- Don’t bring anything to hand out. Not candy. Not clothing. Not bracelets. Even though your “gift” is a nice gesture, it sets an unhealthy expectation for the community that teams who come to visit are coming to bring them things, and it makes it more difficult for the people serving in that ministry 365 days out of the year. Whether we realize it or not, giving things out communicates the idea that all future teams need to do this, and is the reason they came. We certainly do not want to reinforce the idea that they are a charity case in any way. Imagine if someone showed up at your house and gave you clothing, and shoes, and food, and books, and toothpaste. They don’t know you, but they just started handing things out to you left and right. Yes, it’s nice because who wouldn’t want free stuff? But wouldn’t it make you wonder, “Why are they giving me this? Do they think I don’t dress nice? Do they think I don’t have this stuff? Do they think my breath stinks?” That’s never the impression we want to leave on communities we serve abroad.
- Don’t compare your entire experience to your last mission trip. Every country and culture you visit is not like your last experience. Each place is unique. Even if you have been to this place before on a different mission trip, remember that every single trip will not look the same. If you keep that mindset, you will be more open to experiencing and observing new things without the expectation of what should happen simply because it happened last time.
- Don’t take pictures before you have a relationship with the people. Believe it or not this often happens the moment a team walks into a compound, school, or organization. Before you take any pictures, ask the leadership if it’s okay to take a picture. Then, ask the people that you want to take a picture of if it’s okay with them, too. Imagine if someone you don’t know walked into your house for the first time and just started taking pictures of everything in it—your kitchen, your bedroom, your family! A good rule of thumb to remember is this: Don’t take a picture of someone if you do not know their name and their story.
- Don’t assume. Don’t assume the staff, translators, and drivers that are with your team don’t live the way the people you are serving live. Don’t assume they believe the same thing as you. Be sensitive to the observations you make in front of them about what you just experienced. I most often see this happen in the van driving somewhere. People start to naturally share their experiences of what they just saw, unaware that the locals in the van with them may come from the same places they just left. Be sensitive to what words you are using or how you are describing it. You don’t want to offend or put down the people who are serving alongside you.
- Don’t make promises you don’t realize you are making. “I will be back.” “I will write to you.” “Maybe we can come to your house for coffee tomorrow.” “I will send these pictures with another team.” “I will ask about sponsorship.” It’s all well intentioned, but don’t make promises you can’t keep to the people you meet along the way. It erodes the trust the organization on the ground has been working hard to build.
There you have it!
Remembering to be aware of and attempt to avoid doing these six things will not only help your group have a better experience on their trip, but will give the local community and culture you’re serving a better experience as well.
Interested in going on a mission trip with us someday? Check out Carry117.com for details!
COMING SOON: 5 Things You Absolutely SHOULD Do on Your Mission Trip
Questions? Contact me