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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

An Open Letter To Those Going on a Missions Trip (By a non-expert)



As the weather turns warmer, and spring begins to turn towards summertime, many people start to get really excited/nervous/frantic about what they'll pack...why? Because it's missions trip season! :) Obviously we are not like the Mormons, where every young person is positively required to go on a "mission". Definitely not. However, I do know a lot of young people who either have been on one or more missions trips, or will be at some point in the near future. My good friend, Kimberly, is currently in Thailand, having spent the last few days there, and the previous 3 weeks or so in Burma. I have other friends who just got back from a 10 day trip to England. 

As far as myself, I have been on a 2 week trip to Southern Mexico in 2012, and a 10 day trip to Samoa (not American Samoa) in 2014. Both trips were absolutely incredible growing experiences for me, and I wouldn't trade the memories made for anything! 

However. We all know that along with trips like this come certain...how shall I say it...potholes in the road, if you will. There is usually a fly in the sandwich, a situation or experience that you really wish had not had a part in the trip. Lots of folks would say, "Oh, those things happen, it's all just part of the experience!". And in a way, that's true, BUT...from my small experience, at least 95% of these "mishaps" really could have been avoided! The vast majority of them were due to either a lack of character in certain members of the team, or just a lack of thinking through actions before doing them. And I definitely include myself in that statement. So without further ado, here is my personal list of things you really, really should try to do and NOT do when on a missions trip.

#1. Cut the griping.
Seriously, pretty much nothing else will ruin a trip for everyone faster than whiny group members. On our trip to Samoa, the 5 other girls in my group and myself made a pact with each other: if we catch a team member complaining or whining, we will call them out on it, and ask them to say something about _____ (the thing they were complaining about) that is good. Actual example:
Me: "That taro root at lunch honestly tasted like...dirt." 
Abby: "Mykaela! What did you LIKE about the food today?"
Me: "Well, I did really enjoy the curried goat, even though I didn't expect to!"
There you go...make it a point to either say something positive, or zip it. :)

#2. Listen to and respect your team leader(s). 
This one is so, SO important!! If multiple people (or even one person!) on a trip are ignoring and/or disregarding the authority of the leader, it can have devastating effects! And NOT just on them, but every single person in the team, as well as the people you are trying to minister to. The leaders are sacrificing and working hard to make the trip work smoothly, and the least you can do is be cooperative! Even if you don't understand a rule or a request, please do respectfully follow it. You'll be really glad you did.

#3. Spend time with the people you are serving!
You can hang out with your friends from church anytime at all. But that young lady over there that looks like she needs a friend? You will most likely never again have the opportunity to show Christ's love to her. That's why you go on a missions trip, after all...don't squander the precious opportunities you have with the people you came to help out!

#4. Don't go into boy/girl relationship drama.
Seriously. Just don't. You have NO. IDEA. how absolutely ridiculous of an idea this is. Not to mention how much damage you can do. Don't get into it with your team members, and don't get into it with the national people. Be God-honoring in every single word, action, and look. 

#5. Spend time with the national kids.
This is similar to #3, but really....some of the memories I treasure the most from my missions trips are the times I sat down with a group of kids and just talked or played with them. They have such a different outlook on life than adults, which is why it's so awesome to spend time with both! If you see some kids who look like they wouldn't mind if a weirdo from America came over and joined their game, then go for it! ;) I promise it will be worth your while.

#6. If you get sick, be strong.
I understand that there are a lot of factors that play into going to a foreign country, or even a different part of your own country! Health is one of them, and unfortunately sickness can hit pretty hard on a missions trip, when stress levels are usually fairly high, you probably aren't drinking quite enough, new foods, drinks and air are all affecting you...it can be tough. That being said, if you do get really sick, make an effort to stay positive, and not be a baby about it. ;) It happens, and of course you shouldn't feel bad about catching something, but really...do your best to be strong, not complain, and do what you can not to be a huge burden to those who are responsible for you. Be grateful for those who help you out, take care of you, etc. They are taking time out of the trip to do so.

So there you have it! My personal-opinon list of really good and bad courses of action on a missions trip! I am certainly not an expert, and the list is not all-inclusive, but I hope my experiences can help you out in some way. :) God bless you as you serve Him, whether at home or abroad!
Mykaela

5 comments:

  1. Elizabeth WilliamsApril 20, 2016 at 7:31 AM

    I've never been on a missions trip before, but it sounds like a great experience, and I would love to do it someday!

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    2. It's really one of those things that I think everyone should do at least once. Getting away from your comfort zone is hard, but so eye opening too!! :)

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  2. Can I just say 'Amen'?? Haha! Yes! I agree with all of these!! And a few of them made me smile because I know *exactly* what you mean!

    One of my favorite memories in Burma was playing tag with little boys that were scared of my strangely white skin! It was quite the challenge to get them to warm up to me, being that we couldn't communicate a single word! But, tag is an international game, and I think we were all friends my the time the dinner bell started ringing. ;)

    If I had anything to add, it would just be to learn what "respect" means to the people you're going to be around. You will hurt the cause of Christ more than help it if the people perceive you as disrespectful. :)

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  3. So true, Kimberly! That is definitely a huge factor too...Something we do all the time and think nothing of it could be really offensive in another culture! :O Scary. ;) And isn't it funny? In culturally diverse America, we usually see people with different colored skin from birth...it's nothing new or strange, but totally normal. But for other people, it must be SO weird if you've never seen it before!! And yet, "He hath made of one blood all nations of men...<3

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