Though it might hurt to admit it, there’s something fundamentally counterintuitive with how we, the church, present short term mission trips.
When recruiting people to embark on short term mission trips, we always talk to them about “the experience” and how it “changes you” and makes you feel “a sense of fulfillment”. Participants who have gone on short term mission trips always come back with stories about how the trip has inspired them to become better servants of the ministry, and how their experiences have renewed their faith.
But in a sense, it hurts rather than helps our case.
This approach is a misdirection of great proportion. Thinking of short term mission trips as a way to better the self rather than help the church spread the word and glorify God is self-serving.
Thankfully, there is a remedy: by shifting the way we see short term mission trips. We should dedicate every short-term trip to benefit the work of long-term missionaries. These changes aren’t the kind that happen overnight; and they have to start before the missionaries even set foot on the plane.
How can we prepare participants for short term mission trips so they may serve well? Read on for ten things that need to be considered by everyone who wants to embark on a short term mission trip:
Don’t lose focus.
The thought of going on an adventure to a foreign land would excite anybody. But your desire to serve Him must trump any feelings of fear or elation in your heart, or else it might lead to trips that are not as productive as intended.
A mission is not a vacation; it’s not simply about building houses, delivering speeches, making new friends, or distributing aid—despite these being the major tasks that make up these trips, the sole purpose of your mission is to proclaim God’s glory among the nations. “Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalm 96:2-3)
Be humble without provocation or prejudice.
This is especially significant since missions involve interacting with people from all walks of life. From the lowly janitor to the CEO, we should treat everyone with love in equal measure. Our role as apostles is important, but we must remember that, just as Jesus humbled himself and died on the cross to save us from our sins, we must also humble ourselves in front of each other.
Be ready for extreme exhaustion.
You won’t leave the mission relaxed and rejuvenated. You’ll be overworked, jetlagged, and exposed to harsh foreign elements. Expect to spend every ounce of effort and energy sharing the gospel of the Lord, in both your words and actions. Nicaragua mission trips, for example, will involve a lot of travelling on foot and long hours of hard, manual labor.
But when you’re in bed after a particularly difficult day, just remember why you’re tired, and what your work can achieve.
Know how to adjust.
Many times, your short term mission trip schedule will change with little or no notice—and that’s okay. You need to be prepared to encounter these irregularities between your expectation and reality. As part of the church, you must be careful not to pressure overseas workers into aligning with your pre-planned schedule or outcome, especially when your demands are no longer within reason.
When plans change last-minute, or unforeseen incidents affect the flow of work and timeline, accept the situation with an open mind and happy heart. Toss those predetermined notions out the window and go with the flow.
Be open to learning from the people around you.
Every single person we encounter in life has a story to share… but only if we are humble enough to accept what they have to say. Whenever you meet people on your trip, you should realize that you’re meeting a person who lives a totally different life than you do. Accepting that you don’t know everything won’t just make you gain respect for the people around you, but it also makes you a better servant for Christ. “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” (Daniel 1:17)
Serve with all your heart.
The church teaches us to serve extravagantly—that is to say, with exceptional fervor—and to align ourselves with those who have risked life and limb for the sake of Jesus’ name by supporting them in a manner worthy of God. We must prepare ourselves to toil away beyond what is expected of us, and beyond reason, and remember that our efforts pale in comparison to the efforts of the people who have committed years of their lives to the mission field.
Be low maintenance.
It’s relatively easy to fall into the mindset of “I’m a foreign person in a foreign land, attend to me hand and foot”. A mission trip will not offer you the same comforts that home does, and you have to be okay with that. Simply remind yourself that you are there to serve, not be served.
However, people might be so thankful for your presence that they freely offer their time, efforts, and even gifts to you, remember that they are doing so out of love for the gospel. You are not there as a mere individual but as a representative of the Lord, bearing his name. Be the person whose presence lifts everyone’s spirits up rather than weigh them down.
If you’re ready to embark on a short term mission trip contact In Motion Ministries today!