Mission trips can be fun and exciting. They also can be life changing and faith impacting if you allow them. This is most likely able to happen if you take the time to prepare for your experience beforehand. With summer mission trips now in full gear, I wanted to take some time to share some of my favorite ways for you to prepare for your summer mission trip.
1. Do Your Research
Get to know the country you are going to serve. Spend some time on Google, read a few books from missionaries, aid workers, and anthropologist currently in the country. Start following a few blogs, preferably the ones associated with the mission you will be going to partner with. Really, your research possibilities are endless. The more you know about the country, culture, and people you are going to serve the better.
2. Consider the Culture
You need to learn about what is considered disrespectful in the Christian culture where you will be serving. All over the world people have different variations of what is considered disrespectful in their culture, especially within the Christian culture. One of the first times I went on a mission trip to Haiti, I didn’t consider the culture’s take on double pierced ears. In America it is fashionable, but in Haiti it is a sign of promiscuity. Unbeknownst to me, my double earrings were a big distraction to the Christians I was attempting to teach. Had I known ahead of time what was disrespectful to the Christians in Haiti, I would have removed my earrings and had a much more successful mission. So please, learn from my mistakes.
3. Go to Learn
When I first starting going on mission trips I made one crucial mistake: I went solely to teach, not to learn. For a long time this hindered my ability to serve the native people well because I never knew them well enough. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Go and observe the culture. Go and take in the customs. Go and study their language. Go and ask questions. Go and listen to stories. Go and learn. The more you choose to learn on your mission trip, the more the local people will accept you and the greater your impact will be.
4. Prepare to Surrender All
There are many reasons to go on mission trips: to see new places, to have life-changing experiences, to grow in faith, and serve others. But there is one reason to go above them all. We go because God sends us. And when God sends us to serve His people, He requires us to surrender all. Surrendering all isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it is quite difficult. On a mission trip, however, you need to be willing to sacrifice all of yourself so that others may reap what you have to give.
5. Clothe Yourself in Prayer
As you prepare for your mission trip, pray daily for your team leaders to have wisdom and for your team to serve with the love of Christ. Learn some specific names of the local people and missionaries you will be working with and begin praying for them by name. Do your research on the current political, social, and economic issues of the country you will be visiting and pray fervently over those issues everyday leading up to your trip. And then pray for yourself. Pray that God will use you to: “Proclaim good news to the poor” and “bind up the brokenhearted” and “proclaim freedom for the captives” and “proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” and “comfort all who mourn” (Isaiah 61: 1-2).
No matter how well you prepare for your mission trip this summer, however, remember that it will be the Spirit of God who will lead you once you arrive. If you are truly on your mission trip to love God and love others (Matthew 22: 36-40) then God will lead you as you serve His people.
May God bless you this summer as you serve Him and serve others. May you be a light to His kingdom and a witness to His love all over the world.