You've updated your passport, packed your carry-on just perfectly, and even taken out the trash. What's left to do? Prepare your mind and heart.
If all you do is prepare for your mission trip is pack a suitcase, you might be missing the “mission” part of your trip. Just like you wouldn't go on a trip without first packing the right clothing and gear, you shouldn't go on a mission trip without first preparing your mind and heart. On this page you'll find a handful of helpful questions that will help you prepare spiritually before you serve abroad.
Align your heart with the purpose of your trip
If we're honest with ourselves, sometimes we have ulterior motives for going on a mission trip. We want to travel. We want to get to know a certain guy or girl. We want to feel good about ourselves. We want to look like a better Christian when we get back.
But there's a bigger purpose for your trip. Answer the following questions honestly, and avoid the tendency to just skim over them. Answering the questions below will help focus your mind and heart on the true purpose of your trip.
1) What are some of the reasons I am serving on this trip?
2) Do I have any ulterior motives for going on this mission trip? What are they?
3) Based on my current motives, if I left on my trip today, what would be my primary focus throughout the trip?
4) How might the community I'm traveling to feel about my current motives?
5) How might God feel about these motives?
6) What is the primary purpose of the trip?
7) What should I be focusing on?
8) What do I need to do to genuinely align my focus with the true purpose of the trip?
Mission trips tend to bring out the best and worst in all of us. For many of us, a mission trip is the most time we'll ever spend in a given week completely focused on serving others. But at the same time, a mission trip can also be the most physically, spiritually, and emotionally demanding week in a person's life. Anticipating those demanding situations can go a long way in helping you navigate potentially difficult moments during your trip. And the best way to navigate difficult, stressful, and draining moments throughout your trip is to embrace one thing: grace.
God has chosen you to go. He wants to use you. Why? Is it because you read the Bible every day this month? Or because of your extraordinary knowledge of African culture? Probably not. It's because of His grace. Even though there may be smarter, wiser, more Bible-savvy people out there, He picked you. And that's awesome! God has graciously chosen you to go. So, you should go graciously. What does this mean? It means embracing qualities that are often counterintuitive. It's about responding instead of reacting, especially during difficult moments during your mission trip.
If your flight gets delayed, if they're out of vegetarian options on the plane, if the food tastes weird, if your mission trip project gets rained out, if you don't sleep well, if your bus gets a flat tire, if you get bit up by bugs, embrace . . .
Flexibility over obstinacy
Gratefulness over complaining
Encouragement over gossip
Kindness over sarcasm
Grace over entitlement
You don't accidentally become a grace-filled person, especially in stressful moments. It's a mindset that must be embraced intentionally. Answer these simple questions to begin the process of preparing your mind and heart to respond to tough situations with grace.
1) Can I anticipate any situations on my mission trip that I might have a tough time embracing grace?
2) What does it look like to respond with grace in these tough situations?
3) What can I do now to prepare my mind and heart to genuinely embrace grace in every situation during my mission trip?
Prepare to serve the people
Sometimes we get so focused on fundraising and packing the right stuff that we forget to prepare for the new people we will meet during our mission trip. Preparing your mind and heart for the locals will help you walk into their community with the right frame of mind. Answering the questions below will also help prepare you to serve the new community effectively.
1) Think about the people you will serve. What do you think everyday life is like?
2) What do you think some of their greatest needs are?
3) Do you think the biggest need will be spiritual (to learn more about Jesus), or physical (to receive tangible, physical support)?
4) What problems might have led to these needs?
5) What might be preventing the locals from meeting these needs on their own?
6) How will you try to serve and meet those needs?
7) What can you do once you’re back home to help locals continue making progress on their spiritual and physical needs?
Whew! What a trip. Now that you're home, you may be seeing the world around you in a new way. Some people call this reverse culture shock. Some say it's part of a “spiritual high” experience. Either way, your life was changed . . . but maybe not for long.
The return to “normal life” can be challenging . . . You're going to tell people about your mission trip, and they won't understand. You'll show them pictures and they'll say, “Oh, those are nice.” The camaraderie you felt and experienced with your team will fade. You'll go back to school or back to work. And your mindset and heart will return to the way it was before you left . . . if you don't make intentional changes.
Did you know that the God that gave you an incredible experience overseas is the same God when you're at home? God is the same in Uganda, Argentina, and even the United States. It is you that changed and your eyes that were opened when you traveled overseas. Now that you know what He is capable of, it's time to bring it home.
Answer the following questions a few days after you get back from your trip. These questions will help you make sure that the life change you experienced is lifelong.
1) What did I learn about myself during the trip?
2) What did I learn about God during the trip?
3) What changed in me during the trip? What led to that change?
4) What can I do now to strengthen that change so that it sticks with me?
5) What have I learned about God's purpose for my life?
6) What steps can I take over the next month to shift my life to align with what I've learned about God's purpose for me?
Don't stop now
If you worked through all of these questions honestly, then congratulations. You're making the most of the opportunity that God has given you. Don't stop now! Stay focused and begin to take the steps necessary to align what you've learned with God's purpose for your life.
Written by CJ and Teri