It's no surprise how much time, blood, sweat and (definitely) tears goes into missions planning- from the first steps to the return home. When planning a mission trip, whether short-or-long-term, it's paramount to make sure that your team is on the same page before you take off. There are many areas to cover for preparation such as safety tips, cultural taboos, and packing information.
As important as these skills are, it's more important to make sure that your team is spiritually prepared. This includes but is not limited to their attitudes, their character, and their personal spiritual walk with God.
Here are a few areas to consider covering with your team to prepare for the work you are about to do!
Whether it's your first or fifteenth mission trip, the time period before you take an international trip is so sweet. This is a point of time in which you should be diving deep into your personal relationship with Christ. It's a time to learn more about what it means to "go tell it", "have love for one another", and "consider others more important than yourself." When I took my first international trip last year, I couldn't help but be a little let down due to the high expectations I had for my experience. Due to my selfish, worldly desires, I missed out on a few opportunities to really experience God's presence as he had initially intended me to. That's not to say God didn't do amazing work in my heart, but had I prepared before hand for a heart that longed to watch the Spirit move, I could've experienced Haiti in a whole new light. As you are spending time with the Lord, pray that he would open your eyes to see his will for the trip and ask him to use you for his glory. I would also encourage each member to share expectations amongst the team! (For spiritual preparation read: Acts 1:8, Romans 10:13-14, 1 Chronicles 16:24)
It's important to inform your team of the different ways of life another country engages in. Not only will this knowledge allow them to acclimate quicker, but it could help set realistic expectations for your team members as well. After almost 15 hours of travel, finally landing in Port Au Prince, I was exhausted and in desperate need of a shower. After arriving to the house, I was informed that running city water was a more valued commodity. It also hadn't really occurred to me that I was traveling to the Caribbean in the middle of July (HOT). Our only source of A/C was the generator-powered floor fans that worked as they pleased. (Don't worry, I took a "bucket shower" and it was one of the most refreshing showers I've ever had!) I knew this was a way of life for the Haitians, but I didn't have anyone to prepare me for the huge culture shift I was going to experience. Do as much research as you can to help alleviate some of the initial shock for your team. It's important to know the people you are serving; food, living, and ways of thinking and being are basic cultural principles that change drastically in each country. Packing accordingly will help in this area as well! (For cultural preparation read: 2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 13:9, 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 12:2)
Every team member should, at any point in time, be ready to share their testimony of how they came to faith. Most of the time there is a language barrier, so they will be having to use a translator. Other times, they may meet someone in passing who is asks the reason of visit. Being able to share their testimony in just a couple of minutes will allow conversations to be more effective! Sharing the gospel is the first and final goal, amongst everything else. Being able to transition smoothly into these conversations should be something that comes naturally. After I've shared my testimony, I ask the other person if they have a faith. This is where knowing how to clearly articulate the gospel counts the most. It should be the first skill learned before your team even leaves home. With your members, practice drawing the Bridge Illustrationand asking the "Kennedy Questions" that Todd Wagner explains in the video above! (For ministry preparation read: 1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 2:9-8, 2 Corinthians 11)
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!