10 Tips for Your First Mission Trip
by Kristy Dees
Are you going on your first missions trip? Asking questions like, “what do I bring? what should I expect? How do I get ready for this?” These are very familiar questions to any of us who have taken that first step signing up for a missions trip. So to help with those pre-trip jitters, here are my 10 tips (that I wish someone had told me) to get ready!
Really, pray. It seems like a “duh” but will change your trip completely as you do this trip “With-Jesus”. From the second you get the nudge to go, start intentionally expressing to Him your fears, your doubts, and your questions. Invite Him to be in charge of your trip, instead of you. Missions trips are a GREAT way to recognize your own control issues ;)…
2. Get to Know your Teammates.
Team dynamics often will make (or break) your trip experience. Start praying for your team by name every day. Ask God to help you see them as He sees them, especially when you are in conflict or annoyed.
3. Expect pushback before your trip
The glowing moment when you are so excited for this trip will eventually go away. The time/money you are giving will start to feel like too much. Know that there is an enemy who is desperately trying to stop you from taking this step of faith. Be vulnerable with your team when you are struggling pre-trip and stand firm. Read Ephesians 6: 10-17 when you need a reminder.
4. Pack well, pack early.
Trust the list. Your team leaders/country contact will know what you should bring/wear so make sure you ask your questions about the list EARLY, i.e. not waking up your leader at 2 am the night before you leave because you just looked at the list! Yes, this happens.
5. Don’t underestimate a culturally appropriate greeting
No, you aren’t going to learn a whole new language/culture in a matter of days or even months. So, does it really matter if you learn 3 phrases and the right way to tilt your head when saying goodbye? YES! Take the time in to learn about the culture and especially how to greet and say goodbye. This conveys, in a matter of seconds, both respect for a different culture and your intent to build relationship.
6. Become a LEARNER, not an expert.
Ask questions. Laugh at yourself when don’t get it right the first time. Be curious about what you see and the people you meet. Take the risk of being uncomfortable in order to try something new.
7. Your happiness on the trip will be tied to your level of servanthood.
Be the person who starts out carrying their teammates bag at the airport and decides to refill water bottles so others can rest. You will be SO MUCH HAPPIER than the person who is worrying about how hot it is and why no one will tell them the plan for the day. Why? Your Philippians 2 mindset is going to align your steps with Jesus, and He is all about increasing your joy and peace, especially in places where joy and peace seem inaccessible.
8. Don’t compare yourself.
This can trip you up right from the start of signing up to the last debrief moment. Someone else is always going to appear to be more confident, more gifted, more “spiritual.” And, the list will go on and on. You are a unique reflection of God, which no one can replicate. Be YOU on this trip. Let God pour out His love in the places where that doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
9. Journal every day
This trip will go fast! And the amazing or confusing moments you had with God and the people around you will be forgotten. Even if you “never journal”, just write down what happened in your day, and you will be surprised at how much that helps you absorb and later reflect on your experiences.
10. Don’t skip the debrief
Believe it or not, the coming back part can be the hardest. Within even a couple days, you will start to forget and life will just go on. However, whether you take the time to acknowledge and assimilate it or not, this trip has changed you. And you need to talk through the good (or even bad) of this with someone who can understand. And as for you and God… see tip #1.
Kristy was born in Pine City, MinneSoooooota. She is the classic Midwestern turned California girl. Indeed she was a small town girl, living in a lonely world whose trains took her all around the world. She has a huge heart for people who are hurting and has worked in some pretty interesting places, including Angola, Africa for several years! Kristy loves the ocean, dystopian novels, and twirling.