An estimated 2 million people each year in the US go on a short-term missions trip. There is no doubt they make a difference, but it is important to be prepared so as to help and not hinder. Here are ten things to take into consideration.
The country you are serving is most likely broken in one way or another -- poverty, natural disaster or lack of infrastructure to rebuild. The problems you will face are complex, the solution is simple: prayer. We don’t know why God allows certain things, but we know He alone can change them.
2. It’s Not About You
There is a danger of using a short-term missions trip to travel the world or to do something ‘good’. Remember: this trip is not about you, it is about the people you are going to serve. They will be there long after you leave.
3. Learn Learn Learn
Every place is different. In Bosnia, it is rude to show the soles of your feet. In the Middle East, you would never leave the house with wet hair. You will be most effective if you learn as much as possible about your mission field before you go.
4. Share Your Talents
God has gifted each person with unique talents to be used for His glory. If you don’t already know what you are good at, spend some time thinking about it before you leave. Teach someone in the field, build a relationship while you work together, and help build self-sufficiency.
5. It’s Short-Term
You will most likely join a missionary or team who have been there for a number of years. Watch them, learn from them, and you will be off to a great start.
6. Be Flexible
From all your training, you probably have a good idea of what each day will look like, but don’t expect things to run smoothly. The stories are endless of luggage being lost, flights cancelled, and schedules suddenly changed. And when things do go wrong, remember why you are there.
7. Are You Helping?
Be careful not to impose a Western view on the people you are serving. That one thing you think they need, may not be what they need at all. Bottom line: ask yourself “Will this help or hurt?” before you do anything.
8. Put Down The Camera
Research shows that someone experiencing an event from behind a camera is not able to recall details as easily. The camera can also be a barrier between you and those you are serving.
9. Understand Culture Shock
Culture shock can rear its head at any time, after just one week or one year. It is a normal reaction: be aware of what it looks like and watch out for it.
10. Don’t Forget
It is so easy to let your experience fade away in the weeks after returning home, but don’t be quick to forget. The discipline of keeping a journal can help you to remember seeing the world through a different lens.