8 Tips For A Great Mission Trip

I went on my first short-term mission trip when I was 7 years old. Since then I’ve been on roughly 25 campaigns in several countries. I lived in the country of Panama for three years. To say that I’ve seen a thing or two in the mission field would be fair. There is NO substitute for experience and I’ve got that part down. But this article is not about me, it’s about you. If you are considering going on your first mission trip, or are duct tapping your passport together from overuse, here are 8 things that you need to remember for any mission trip.

Spend less time trying to learn the language and more time trying to learn how conduct a Bible study. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “Our group has been taking language classes for the past 6 months!” To be honest, it makes me cringe inside (just a little). I know there is a great desire to be able to communicate in a foreign country. But what use is it to be able to order pancakes in 5 different languages if you can effectively teach the plan of salvation in one language? It should be the goal of EVERY team member to conduct at least one Bible study while on a campaign. Even if it is short… Even if you need help to get through it… Use this opportunity to stretch your skills. You’re already out of your comfort zone anyway!!! It will not be in vain. The bible says in Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Bring less candy/toys and bring more hugs. 

For some reason we think that we have to bribe kids to come play with us. I have met very few children who would rather have a toy than have the attention of an adult that cares about them. Realize that kids are the same no matter if they are from Nicaragua or Nebraska, from Peru or Paris, TN, Costa Rica or California. If you love kids, then love them. Your ability to love them has NOTHING to do with how much you can give them. We think it will bring us together because we are giving them things that they could never get on their own. And it comes from a good place. We all want to share our nice things. But it doesn’t work. Why? Because at the root of it is materialism. If we think we can make them better or happier by giving them things that they can not afford, we create division. There is a silent lesson being taught. “I have ‘things’ and these ‘things’ make me better and happier. You do not have as many ‘things,’ therefore, you can only get better and happier if you get more ‘things.’ AND if I give my ‘things’ to you it makes me an even better person because I have ‘things’ AND I’m compassionate. I feel good about me.”

Control your need to know everything (especially those of you who feel the need to know everything BEFORE everyone else). 

Things don’t work the same in foreign countries. They do things differently. That difference is not good or bad, just different. Your need to know and understand everything will only frustrate you. Besides, what difference does to make what hotel you are staying at? Even if you could find it on the internet, they will have doctored the pictures to make you believe you are staying in a resort hotel. Get used to the unknown, because things will happen that no one would be able to anticipate.

Share good ideas, constructive criticism and complaints ONLY with the team leader. 

There is a scene in the movie Saving Private Ryan when they are talking about the validity of their mission. Why risk the lives of all these men to save the life of one man? When they ask the Captain his opinion of the mission, he reaffirms his commitment to the mission. He says that even if he did disagree with the mission he would never tell his subordinates because complaints go UP the chain of command. Always up, never down! Stress can be a great motivator or a great distraction. Zeal can ALSO be a great motivator or a great distraction. Sharing both your Zeal and your Stress with the team is the best way to focus that energy into a positive outcome.

Make “Yes” your favorite. 

Warning, another movie quote coming up…
In the movie Elf (a holiday classic if there ever was one), Buddy gets a job (sort of) at the department store, Gimbel’s.

Buddy: Wow, what’s this?
Gimbel’s Manager: This is the North Pole.
Buddy: No, it’s not.
Gimbel’s Manager: Yes, it is.
Buddy: No, it’s not.
Gimbel’s Manager: Yes, it is.
Buddy: No, it isn’t.
Gimbel’s Manager: Yes, it is.
Buddy: No, it’s not. Where’s the snow? [smiles]
Gimbel’s Manager: Why are you smiling like that?
Buddy: I just like smiling; smiling’s my favorite.
Gimbel’s Manager: [pause] Make work your favorite, okay? Work is your new favorite.

I encourage as much smiling on a campaign as possible. However, the best thing to do on a campaign is to be willing to say “Yes!” If a team leader comes to you to ask you to do a task or step into a needed roll, it’s because he believes you can do it. Do it without complaining for bonus points!!!

Stay with the group.

Even if you’ve been to 100 different countries and speak 7 languages, ALWAYS STAY WITH THE GROUP!!!!! Your team leader is responsible for your whole group. The quickest way to add stress to an already stressful job, is for you to go unaccounted for. It is not a matter of your ability to move around in a foreign country, it is a matter of accountability. Your leader is accountable for your health and safety. Don’t make that job harder than it already is.

Learn the difference between trying something new and doing something stupid. 

Being in a foreign country brings a certain amount of adventure. New foods, new activities, new people, new world. It is part of the draw of mission work. Don’t let your excitement over a new experience cloud your judgement. You will NOT have access to the care and services that you are accustomed to if you are injured, sick, or arrested! Things that might be ok in one country might be illegal in others. Don’t let the adventure interfere with the purpose of your trip, saving souls.

Don’t lose your passport. 

Just don’t! It’s a REALLY big hassle and it will cost you a small fortune.

BONUS: Don’t be a missionary hypocrite.

If you are willing to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to go to a foreign or domestic mission site to share the gospel, do it at home, too!!! If you are willing to dedicate your time and energy to the cause of Christ 1000’s of miles away from home, do the same on your own block where you live. I challenge you, at the very minimum, spend as much time and money sharing the gospel in your own home town as you do going on a mission trip! If you can do it there, you better do it here!

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johnfarberJohn Farber is a missionary for Latin American Missions.

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