By Emily Roth
So you’re preparing to go on a short-term mission. Maybe you’re visiting missionaries that you support. Maybe you’re going with a team from a church. Short-term missions can have many different goals and plans.
Our WorldVenture colleagues host short-term mission teams every year in locations around the world. As you are packing your toiletries and checking the dress code, there are certain pieces of advice that will help you prepare for your trip. Five of our colleagues have shared from their years of experience what you need to know before you go.
Linda Thomas: “I’d advise people to leave their expectations at the door. It’s hard because we all bring our past with us. We impose our experiences on our ideas of the unknown. So my advice is to remember that it’s not going to be like it was at home or anywhere else. Let it go. Be flexible. Come open to learn something new. And remember that it’s not weird, it’s just different.”
Sean: “In practical terms, teams need to be flexible. Preparation for a trip is essential to having a great team experience but there will always be something that changes last minute, does not go as planned, or just fails, and teams need to be flexible when this happens. A great team will adapt to the situation, allowing them and others a chance to see how God can work through the change. Often times this is God’s way of stretching us in order for us to rely more on Him.”
Brent Ralston: “No complaining…period. Relationships trump most everything. Most other countries are more relational in nature than America, so focus on that. For instance, relationships are more important than being on time. A servant attitude. This isn’t a ‘tourism’ trip. Prayer. If each team member does not have a good number of prayer supporters backing him/her up, don’t bother coming. Recognize that the trip will be a spiritual battle. Pray against it but prepare for it. Listen to your host as they have cultural/practical insights that the team members cannot pick up on in only a few weeks.”
Ireni Mota: “It is important that those who engage in cultural ministry begin to understand and explore how to be effective in cross-cultural ministry. This means that there needs to be an openness to new ways and maybe different ways of expressing their faith in Christ. There needs to be a desire to learn and ask nonjudgmental and honest questions and to be willing to learn from the host culture. Come prepared to support the national workers as servants any way possible!”
Karen Hoglund: “Every missionary is unique and may have different parts of the culture or environment that frustrate them. Traffic here can be ‘interesting’ to a visitor, but when you’ve been cut-off for the 50th time that week, it can frustrate the missionary. If they react, give them grace. Let missionaries share about the good and the hard parts of living and doing ministry where they are. Let them be transparent so you know how to better pray for them, and then pray for them!”
“Understand that to a missionary you are coming from the land of plenty. Before you eat something in their house, understand that it may be a precious treat that has been carried from America and they may be saving or rationing it. Also, ask the missionaries you are going to if they need anything. There’s nothing worse than having a team arrive and someone triumphantly announces, ‘My suitcase was only 35 pounds!’ Every team and missionary has things that they would happily suggest to make that extra 15 pounds a precious treasure chest of joy!”