Over 400,000 missionaries travel the world each year. While this number has continued to grow over time, so has the number of those in need.
As a result, the demand for missionary support has never been higher. When countries are afflicted by poverty, war, and famine and struggle to overcome these hardships, missionaries like you step in to help.
However, successful mission travel is no easy feat. It requires adequate preparation. We're here to help you learn how to go on a mission trip.
Below, explore 12 missionary tips you can apply before, during, and after your mission trip to ensure success.
Mission Travel Tips: Before the Mission
1. Research Your Organization
There are two fundamental keys to a successful mission trip:
- Finding an organization that shares your values
- Finding a project that could use your skills
Finding an Organization That Shares Your Values
Working with non-profit organizations is the best way to ensure your mission trip aligns with your values. The phrase "non-profit" means the money you spend on your trip goes directly to supporting the organization, volunteers, and people in need.
Finding a Project That Could Use Your Skills
If you're handy with a hammer, you can find mission trips that build homes for the impoverished. The non-profit organization Group Workcamps offers short-term home repair mission trips. You can also spend more time building abroad with the CWE Missions construction crew.
If you have a background in medicine, you could use your skills to help heal the ill or injured with an organization like International Volunteer HQ or Cure.
You'll find ample teaching opportunities with Ethnos360 and Orphan Outreach.
Additionally, organizations such as TeachBeyond often need dormitory parents and resident assistants (RAs). These volunteer opportunities only require basic leadership skills and love.
2. Learn About Your Destination
After you've selected the right organization for you, you'll need to brush up on where you're going.
Too often, missionaries arrive at their destination, gospel in hand, ready to start spreading the word. While this is an inspiring image, the residents of your destination may have more pressing concerns.
They may not have had much experience with outsiders, or their cultural history may reveal that they haven't had positive experiences with outsiders in the past.
Before you go, study up on the history of the people with whom you'll be interacting. Then, research current events in their nation. You may find that your original approach needs adjusting.
The Culture Trip is a great resource to learn more about your destination from an insider's perspective.
3. Take Care of Paperwork and Logistics Early
While paperwork can sometimes be a hassle, starting early and staying consistent with dates and deadlines can make the entire process easier.
Passports, itineraries, schedules, and accommodations are among the most difficult aspects of planning overseas travel, but they also pave the way for a successful travel experience.
Take a second copy of any important documents and consider whether you need mission trip medical insurance. Plan for safe and reliable transportation within the country in addition to lodging and meals.
Discover how to Prep for the Third World.
4. Ensure Your Medical Needs Are Met
If you're traveling abroad, you may need to get vaccinated first. It's important to know what diseases could be prevalent where you're headed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers an easy-to-use resource detailing exactly what vaccines you'll need and what health concerns to watch out for while you're abroad. Simply select your destination country from the dropdown list and read through the list of required and suggested vaccines.
If you've already received some of these vaccines, contact your medical provider to obtain records of your vaccinations.
You may not have easy access to a pharmacy while abroad, so be sure to bring sufficient prescription medication as well.
5. Get Insured
Many organizations require participants to be covered with travel medical insurance throughout the mission trip.
Learn what travel medical insurance is and discover why it may be important for your trip.
While some organizations provide insurance for their volunteers, others require individuals to seek out their own travel medical insurance plans.
And, if you're required to possess a travel visa, you may be required to show that you have adequate means of subsistence during your stay — primarily for food, accommodations, and medical costs. A mission trip medical insurance plan can help prove your ability to pay for your trip by showing that you have coverage for unexpected injuries or illnesses incurred abroad.
If you need personal missionary medical insurance, consider a policy like Atlas Travel insurance. Or, if you're a mission trip coordinator looking for insurance for your team, Atlas Group insurance provides the same coverage as Atlas Travel at a 10% discount for groups of 5 or more.
Discover what you should look for in a mission trip medical insurance policy.
6. Mentally Prepare
Remember that image described earlier of an eager missionary ready to share their faith with the locals? While that image would be a dream come true, the reality may be quite different.
You may encounter various extreme conditions during your trip, such as poverty, famine, and sickness. This can result in culture shock and feelings of sadness. Keep your expectations low and your acceptance high.
After all, mission travel isn't an excuse to see the world. It's a privilege to help the underprivileged.
Read more about coping with culture shock here.
Mission Travel Tips: During the Mission
7. Take Precautions to Keep Yourself Safe
As an outsider, you'll naturally draw attention to yourself. You could become a target of theft or violence if you're not careful.
Consider these safety practices to help lower the chance of being targeted for theft or kidnapping:
- Avoid patterns — Try to vary your schedule as much as possible. For example, don't use the bathroom at the same time every day.
- Avoid public disputes — If you see a fight break out between a few people or a large group, do not get involved. Instead, walk away.
- Avoid traveling alone — Always travel with a buddy or in a group. This can help lower your chances of being mugged or kidnapped for ransom. If this worst-case scenario does occur, Atlas Travel insurance can help pay for costs affiliated with ransoms and personal belongings surrendered during a kidnapping.
This service, included under the Crisis Response benefit, also provides access to an experienced crisis response team to help negotiate your release.
Please see the Atlas Travel Description of Coverage to review the full details, limits, and exclusions of the Crisis Response benefit.
- Avoid isolated areas — Waking in public areas with crowds is generally safer than walking alone in a dark alley or empty street.
- Keep a low profile — Avoid wearing clothes that stick out from a crowd. If you have cash, keep it hidden on your person. Avoid displaying large amounts of money wherever you go.
- Keep everything secured — Lock your doors and stow away any valuables, money, or personal items you wouldn't want stolen, no matter how safe your destination appears to be.
- Report to a trusted colleague — Make sure someone from your mission travel group knows what you're doing at all times. This ensures someone will know where to find you should something happen.
Keep a close eye on Travel Advisories from the U.S. Department of State. Being aware of common dangers in your destination will help you stay safe.
If you're a U.S. citizen or national, you can also enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP is a free service that allows you to enroll your trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
With this service, you'll receive information about safety conditions in your destination country. It also makes it easier for family and friends to get in touch with you in the event of an emergency.
8. Respect the People You Serve
Hopefully, you've researched the local culture and have a good idea of what to expect. Remember that you're visiting someone else's home.
It's important to help and cultivate positive relationships with the locals, and to respect customs and cultures, even if you don't understand or agree with them. Focus on the mission and the goal of the trip.
9. Practice Love and Leadership
The most effective way to spread your faith is by modeling it. Whether you're an adult chaperone or a volunteer, you have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with the community you're serving.
Inspire spiritual growth by engaging with other volunteers on your trip and the locals. When your team enjoys a success, share the glory. Be sure to celebrate the achievements of the less fortunate as much as your own.
10. Keep A Journal
Writing in a journal is as therapeutic as reading it later. During mission travel, you might get overwhelmed by the sights, the tasks at hand, and homesickness.
Keeping a journal will help you clear your mind and focus on the goals of your mission group. It will also be a helpful resource for missionary tip number 12 below.
Mission Travel Tips: After the Mission
11. Stay in Touch with Your Mission Travel Group
You may be surprised at how hard it is to return home from your mission trip abroad. You may even feel guilty about your way of life compared to the hardships you saw in another country. Some call this phenomenon "reverse culture shock."
Fellow mission travel veterans are your best resource for support. Be sure to exchange phone numbers and stay in touch when you return.
12. Share Your Story
Upon returning from your mission trip, you have a valuable opportunity to inspire hopeful missionaries. Whether you choose to write a blog or simply share your experience with your local congregation, your experiences can help ignite a fire in future volunteers.
Don't keep your experiences to yourself. Share them with others so they know what to expect and how they can help.