Go and Tell: Taking a Summer Missions Trip
- Thursday, May 31, 2012
Everywhere I go these days, it seems like someone is talking about their summer missions trip. At a dinner last weekend a choir member talked about an upcoming trip to London for an Olympics-week evangelism outreach, on Wednesday a friend just back from Egypt gave glowing reports of what God did while she was there, and even as I type a group from my office is in route to Ethiopia with World Vision.
There’s good reason for all this activity. “Jesus said to his followers, ‘Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone.’” (Mark 16:15 NCV) That’s pretty clear, don’t you think? If we’re His followers, then we’ve got our marching orders. Mind you there are any number of ways to “go” these days and not all of them involve long flights and unfamiliar foods. As Lana (the one just back from Egypt) told our prayer group, “You have a part in everything that happened because you prayed that God would be glorified.”
But suppose you want to get out there and fulfill the “Great Commission” in person. You’ve got a lot to gain by doing so. For starters, there’s the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing what Jesus said to do. You’ll get to experience a place you don’t normally live in, whether it’s halfway around the world or downtown at a local shelter. You’ll (probably) get to help someone else but you’ll (definitely) gain more than you give. It can bring your group closer together and you closer to God. A missions trip will give you fresh perspective on life . . . and those are just a few of the benefits.
Ready to go yet? Hold up a minute: before you head out to change the world you might want to take a couple of minutes to answer a few questions and ponder a few things. I’ve collected some of them into what I’m calling a “pre-missions checklist.”
Check Your Motives
Are you going because you feel God calling you? Because you’ve always wanted to see India, Africa, Europe, wherever it is you’re headed? Because the need is so great you can’t stand not to do something? Because all your friends are going and you don’t want to be left out? Because you woke up one morning to find “Go to Africa” in letters of fire on your refrigerator door? They’re all potentially valid reasons (with the possible exception of that last one), and your motives may be something completely different. Understanding those motives will help keep you going through the preparation period and during the trip itself.
Check Your Fit
God gave you a unique combination of gifts and abilities, likes and dislikes. Think about how those will come into play on your upcoming trip. For example, if you have a knack with kids, maybe a children’s evangelism team would be a good fit. If you’re not exactly child-friendly, maybe another position on the team would work better. Or . . . not! Maybe this is the time to try something new, get out of your shell, take a chance. A few minutes thinking through what you’ll actually be doing may help manage your expectations.
Check Your Availability
Before you sign on the dotted line and hand over a nonrefundable deposit, make sure you’ll be able to take the time to go. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but just because your company gives you x number of weeks of vacation doesn’t mean they’ll be happy with you taking them all at once. It’s also nice to give the boss a heads-up to make sure nothing is scheduled during your trip that absolutely requires your presence.
While you’re at it, you may want to check the company policy on fund-raising. You’ll probably be involved in some level of fund-raising and you’ll want to know how to do that without violating anything in the company handbook. You never know, your company may even be willing to make a donation.
Check Your Flexibility
Just because you signed up to do a certain project or role doesn’t mean that’s what will actually take place once you get there. My friend Janice, a frequent mission-tripper, tells me she’s occasionally arrived to find there was actually nothing there for her to do or the situation had changed so their original mission was no longer possible. As she said, “You know you’re comfortable with being a servant of God when people treat you like a servant and you’re OK with that.” Even if you do what you came to do, the odds of everything going perfectly according to plan are slim to none. You’ll be happier (and so will the people around you) if you make peace with that idea on the front end of your trip.
Check Your Tolerance
How do you feel about being hot, sweaty, and grubby? Going without electricity, running water, and modern toilets? What about eating food you’re not used to? If your mission trip is to a third-world country, you may have to deal with all this and more. If comfy beds, hot showers—or bathing facilities of any kind, for that matter—are must-haves for you, choose your destination accordingly.
Another thing to consider: how comfortable are you with people who don’t look, speak, or act like you? Even Christians from a church of your denomination may have standards, behaviors, or ways of doing things that are different from yours. You don’t necessarily have to agree with everything, just be mindful that you’re there to serve, not pass judgment.
Check Your Expectations
Check them at the door, that is. Be open to whatever God has for you. You may go expecting to change someone else’s life and you may do just that. But the biggest change will most likely be in your own heart.
The Bottom Line
If you are firmly convinced God is calling you to go to the mission field, whether it be for a day, a week, a year, or a lifetime . . . GO. No matter how scary it may seem, you’re always better off in the center of God’s will—even in a war zone—than out of it. Pray (without ceasing), plan (as best you can), and pack (your Bible and other necessities). Go and tell. God will go with you.
“If I rise with the sun in the east and settle in the west beyond the sea, even there you would guide me. With your right hand you would hold me.” Psalm 139: 9-10 (NCV)
Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.
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