Preparing for Summer Mission Trips
Summer is my favorite time of the year. I love the warm weather and traveling. Over half my life, I have been blessed to do mission work and travel to other countries. I have worked in Ukraine, Russia, Slovakia, Italy, and most recently spent ten years in Mexico.
There is no greater joy than traveling around God’s creation sharing Jesus with others. Many of you might be preparing to leave, or have a loved one leaving for summer mission trips. I would love to share some things with you that I have learned about missions to prepare you for this great experience.
1. The American way is not the only way.
Yes, we live in a great country and are very blessed in many ways. Please do not expect or want natives to act as Americans do. They are God’s creation just as much as you are, but they might do things differently than you do. It’s not a question of right or wrong–it’s just different. Embrace the differences and praise God that we are all different even though we are made in His image. Praise God for the diversity in cultures.
Enjoy the culture you are visiting. Try new foods, activities, and enjoy the sights.
2. Bless the people, but at the same time make your work simple and reproducible.
It’s fun to bless the natives with neat gifts and crafts from the United States. Just make sure that you are not making it an environment where they think the only way they can bless others is by having neat things that they might not be able to get. Help them see that sharing God’s message can be simple and is reproducible.
3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
You will fall in love with people and places on your trip. Please don’t tell them you will come visit or promise to send them gifts, etc. Remember, “let your yes be yes.” It is easy to build a deep love for those you will serve. As you leave you will want to promise them that you will see them again. Hopefully that is true, but realistically you might not ever get to go back. They will hold on to that promise and will be disappointed or bitter when you can’t fulfill your promise.
4. Be more like Jesus every day.
While living on the mission field my husband and I mentored twenty-one interns. One of the most important things we tried to instill in them was that being more like Jesus every day is all that is expected of them. God will do the rest. We go on these mission trips wanting to save the world. If we go with expectations of baptizing and converting we might come home feeling like a failure. This is one of the devil’s ways of discouraging the church. Did you come home more like Jesus? Do you have more of a vision for what God wants? Did others see Jesus through you? Don’t define your success with things that are out of your control.
5. Don’t expect those at home to understand what you have experienced.
You will come back a changed person. Unfortunately many people back home will not understand how life-changing the experience was. They might not even think to ask you about how it went. Before you leave, set up some times to meet with people when you come back. Maybe you can host a breakfast or lunch for your supporters, missions committee, and family. Plan times when you can talk about your experience so you can bless others with what you learned.
6. Have a great time and keep your eyes open to His blessings!