4 Snobby Things to Avoid on Your Mission Trip
If all you do is land in a foreign country, snap a few pictures of kids in worn out clothes, and then fly back home, did you really go on a mission trip? Or was it more of a tourist expedition? While getting excited about traveling and taking lots of pictures can certainly be part of a mission trip, there's more to it than this. By avoiding these 4 snobby things, you'll help ensure that you keep the "mission" part of your trip the primary focus (instead of just getting a lot of new profile pictures).
1) Avoid the "poor them" attitude.
Tourists tend to see hurting people and say, "Poor them." Missionaries see hurting people and ask, "What can we do to help?" Realizing that people are hurting, poor (in the monetary sense at least), or "less fortunate" is not a bad thing. However, if that's where our thought process stops, we're not on a mission trip, we're sightseeing. On your mission trip it's important to not only see the needs of the community you're visiting, but to also ask the question, "What can we do to help?" The "poor them" mindset is paralyzing; we see the overwhelming need and throw up our hands. By asking, "What can we do to help," we're putting our hands to work.
2) Avoid taking too many pictures.
As juvenile as it sounds, we all want a good profile picture. But taking too many pictures on your trip can be a real barrier to connecting and serving the community you're visiting. This has been a huge weakness for me personally. I love taking pictures. However, I realized that with a camera constantly in one hand and my mind focused on the next great shot, I wasn't serving anyone except my own desire to have a lot of cool pictures. Yes, take pictures to share with family and friends, and get that next great profile picture. But take some pictures, and then put your camera away. And go serve.
TIP: If you're a trip leader, try designating one person as the "day's photographer." One person can be snapping all the action while everyone else focuses on serving. The next day, switch photographers.
3) Avoid being too picky (or making fun of the food).
Often times one of the biggest challenges on a mission trip is adjusting to the food. It takes time for our bodies to get used to the way food is prepared in other countries. If you're a picky eater, this issue is magnified. Will they have vegetarian options? Is the meat USDA certified organic? If food doesn't agree with us (either mentally or physically), we have a choice to make; we can either politely eat what we can and move on, or make a big deal about it.
When we make a big deal about it, the food of the country we're visiting becomes a topic to complain about or make jokes about. However, in my personal experience nothing hurts the locals' feelings quicker than making fun of their cuisine. When we complain or make jokes, we can come across as if we think we're "too good" for the locals' food (snobby). Of course, we don't mean to come across this way. To avoid this we need to be considerate and conscientious of our words, focusing on what we do enjoy about the local cuisine. Try to lean on the side of being appreciative and thankful.
4) Avoid being too group-focused.
This may sound a bit odd, but don't become so focused on your mission trip team that you neglect to interact with the community. Nothing seems to grow friendships faster than traveling to a new country and experiencing a new culture together. This makes for some great mission trip camaraderie (and future team reunions). However, when your team is out on the mission field, the camaraderie can be a barrier to interacting with locals if we're not careful.
What happens is that we get so comfortable with our team members that interacting with the community puts us out of our comfort zone. So, when left with the choice between having a conversation with a local or chatting with a fellow team member, we gravitate towards the latter. We need to be intentional about connecting with the people we are serving, and not just others on our trip.
Putting it all together
It really all boils down to putting others first and ourselves second. Will we put others' needs before our own desires? Will I put serving a community before my desire to have lots of cool pictures? Putting ourselves second is a challenge that we all face at home, and it doesn't go away just because we're on a mission trip. However, do your best to be intentional about putting others before yourself, and you'll avoid being a mission trip snob.
Written by CJ