You have wisely chosen not to waste your summer vacation. You prayed long and hard about going on this mission trip and now it is fast approaching. Pre-trip preparation is the key to contributing your very best effort.
In all of the mission trips I have been privileged to lead and participate in I have seen the enemy throw up roadblocks of fear, financial challenges, family sickness, or work-related problems as the trip draws near. I always warn the team to be ready for these attacks. My rule of thumb is that the harder he fights to keep a team member at home, the more confident I am that he or she needs to be with us on the trip. Yet, one of the enemy’s most successful strategies is not a frontal assault, rather it the subtle suggestion to give your attention to busyness that crowds the trip to the periphery. When that happens, the departure date slips up and catches you unprepared. You pack at the last minute, run by the ATM to get cash for the trip, and rush to the airport to meet the team. Those who have contributed financially, those committing to pray for you, the nationals who will receive you, the Lord who has called you, and you yourself deserve more and better preparation.
Here are six ways you can make the most of this mission trip:
- Prepare for what your team is going to do. You can do this by being present and engaged at all team meetings prior to travel, reading the emails the team leader sends you, and following up to ask any remaining questions after each one. Read the field missionary’s blog, his email communication to the team, and peruse his mission agency’s website. Make sure you understand the primary ministry of that mission agency and this particular missionary, and how your team has been invited to help. Bring what you will need by paying attention to the packing list, perhaps bringing something extra for those who didn’t prepare as well.
- Research as much as you can about where you will serve. Research websites, Lonely Planet guidebooks, and missionary blogs about the country where you will serve. Familiarize yourself with the country’s history, culture, religious background, current events, languages, its history of evangelical missions work, and even some basic phrases for conversation. All of this can easily be done through internet research, talking to other church members who have been on previous trips, former missionaries, and nationals who have moved to your city from that country, and watching documentaries on Netflix or YouTube.
- Study God’s Word. Certainly, this should be a life habit, but intense missions ministry calls for intense preparation, so get deep in the Word. Study through the book of Acts, noting especially those passages that tell of gospel advance and hostility, mission team harmony and tension, and the bold declaration of the gospel to all kinds of hearers whether indifferent, embracing, or opposing.
- Pray. Everyone who goes on a mission trip should go “pre-prayed.” Enlist a prayer partner who will be praying for you as you prepare, while you are gone, and after you return and process what God did to and through you on the trip. Make it a practice to pray daily for your every fear, hope, and need, and for each team member.
- Journal. Keep a journal of your prayers, what God is saying to you through Bible study, fears that occur to you (how will I communicate since I don’t speak the language?, what if the money I need doesn’t come in?, What if I don’t like the food?, etc.) Journal about the team meetings, what you learn in your research, and how you hope to contribute specifically on this trip. Journal while you are on the trip, noting names of people, places, favorite foods, churches, and special experiences – you think that you will never forget this brother’s or sister’s name, or in which village or on which day each activity occurred, but you will with time. The journal will allow you to relive the trip even years in the future. Be sure to note in your trip journal how God answered all of your pre-trip fears and prayers.
- Get as close to Jesus as you can, and stay there. This will serve you and others on this trip, and for the rest of your life. It will allow you to minister in His name and hear the still small voice of His leadership and guidance for decisions that must be made outside your normal life. Getting closer to Jesus so you can hear His voice may be the very reason He has called to you go on this mission trip.