Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of discussion about how to “cultivate a mission-focused life” and how to do short-term mission trips the “right way.” There are many opinions out there - my mom even wrote a book about the topic. But none of them has ever really connected with me. So, I thought I would write my own.
Here are my 5 ways to ensure your mission trip is what you want it to be:
1. “I like to keep my life nice and tidy.”
The best way to make sure your mission trip has the effect you want it to and to be able to control its outcome is to compartmentalize it. School, work, church, family, friends, even your recent experience serving in a foreign country. Keep all of them in their separate categories and you’ll be just fine. If they mix, that’s where things will get out of control. So, when you get home from Mexico or South Africa or wherever it is you might go, DO NOT allow it to affect any other areas of your life. Let your short-term mission trip be just that. Short-term.
2. “It’s all about me!”
If you share your experience with others, focus on what YOU did
What people really want to hear when you get back from a mission trip, if they want to even hear anything at all, is what YOU did. What is the difference that YOU yourself made? How many houses did YOU build and how fast? How many souls did YOU win for the Lord? Did YOU get anybody baptized? Trust me, this is what people want to hear. Secret Tip: If you journal on your trip, make sure you track these type of things so you don’t forget.
Also, think about what YOU did for God and for others
Remember, it's all about YOU. Something in you might be affected or changed a bit by your short-term service trip. Maybe it was a conversation you had with someone or the time you spent with the kids or seeing poverty for the first time. When this happens, be quick to remind yourself of what you did, not about you changing or being transformed. The reality is, God is lucky to have YOU on his team - always remind yourself of this. You’ve done a great job!
3. "You know me. I'm a private person."
Make sure you don’t discuss your experience with anybody and don’t try to understand it
WARNING! When you get back, people are going to tell you that they want to debrief the trip and talk about the lasting experience it can have and how to go about making sure that it isn’t just a one-week trip. I hate these kind of things just as much as you. Let’s be real. We’re not opening up like that. Too dangerous. Could change our lives and our plans. Simply remind people how much of a beast you are and all the good you did during the week.
4. “It was what I thought it would be!”
Don’t ask any questions
You knew exactly what you were going to see and hear and smell and feel and taste. The trip was exactly what you expected. Nothing more, nothing less. The people were who you thought they would be. Poverty was like you knew it was. Even more, the world is just as you expected. So, there’s no need to ask any questions. Don’t wonder how you could do something to change the world. Don’t ask questions about wealth and poverty. Don’t ask what God would want you to do. Just keep on with life as you have always have.
5. “Back to the grind.”
Go on with life as usual…
Last but not least, and certainly most effective on ensuring your experience is in your own control, go back to life as usual. Wake up, eat breakfast, go to class, eat lunch, go to class, work out, eat dinner, study, go to bed. Get back on the grind. Return to your same old routine of life. This way, slowly but surely, your trip will become a memory and it will be what it should be - a once in a lifetime trip or even something you do every year. No need to change. Just keep on keepin’ on.