Five Tips for Your Missionary Travel Experience
Going on a mission trip is a huge decision and an even greater commitment. While some mission trips are short term, many can last anywhere from 1-2 years. Expectedly, leaving your home country for this extended period of time requires lots of careful preparation. When it comes to preparing formissionary travel, follow these steps for a smooth transition.
Research the organization
The first step in preparing for missionary travel is thoroughly researching the organization with which you will be working. Whether you are traveling with your church, volunteer group, or a third-party mission organization, it is vital that you familiarize yourself with the history and goals of the organization. It would take away from your experience if you set out on a mission trip only to find that your personal goals and the goals of the organization are not aligned. Take the time to have every question answered and become acquainted with the testimonials of those who have previously participated in a mission trip with the organization.
Know what to bring (and what to leave behind)
When spending a significant amount of time in a foreign country, it is understandable that you might want to bring along comforts of home; however, this may be imprudent when embarking on a mission trip. Much of your time will be spent out in the field, accomplishing the goals of the mission; thus, it is necessary for you to bring with you the bare minimum when it comes to your creature comforts. Your individual missionary organization will most likely provide you with a list of items to bring. Stick to the list! Don’t bring valuables that may be lost or damaged during your travels. This means leaving behind expensive MP3 players, cellphones, designer clothing, jewelry, etc. This is a time to get used to living with less while serving others.
Learn the language and customs
Your transition will be much easier if you take some time before leaving for your trip to learn key phrases and familiarize yourself with local customs. You will most likely pick up some of the native language if you are going to be in a foreign country for an extended period of time; however, learning basic terms will help you navigate your new home easily from the very beginning of your trip. Also, keep in mind that customs are much different in cultures around the world. Acquaint yourself with what behaviors, gestures, etc. are acceptable and which ones could potentially offend.
Mentally prepare for a culture shock
No matter how ardently you prepare to be immersed in a new culture, some things will undoubtedly be unexpected and will surprise you when you are actually living in a foreign country. One of the most important things you can pack when getting ready for missionary travel is a sense of adventure! Don’t be fearful of trying new things and stepping outside of your comfort zone. Accept that things are going to be much different from home and embrace the change.
Stay connected to home
One way to feel more comfortable in a foreign country is to have a connection to home. When preparing for missionary travel, make sure to provide loved ones with an address to which they can send letters, care packages, etc. It may not always be possible for you to use the phone or internet to stay in touch, but handwritten letters are a meaningful and thoughtful way of staying in touch. If you know that you will have internet access, sign up for a service such as Skype that will enable you to video chat and instant message your friends and family back home. It might also be a good idea to purchase a phone card if you anticipate having access to a landline. Keeping in touch with folks back home will put you at ease if you feel anxious at any point of your trip.
Setting out on a mission trip is a selfless act of which you should be proud, but it does mean that you will be faced with some big changes. In order to smoothly transition into your mission, it is vital that you take time to fully prepare for your trip. Following the above tips when getting ready for your next missionary travel experience will be helpful in arming you with the knowledge you’ll need to have a successful trip!