For individuals that are committed to the cause of social justice, going on a mission trip is often a rite of passage in their lives.
However, spending time among impoverished societies for the first time can cause culture shock that some may not be able to adjust to easily.
This post will teach you a few things that you should know before taking off on your first mission trip.
1) Don’t try to be a hero
For the altruistic, there is a desire to want to try to fix all the problems of the people that they are about to encounter. For others, it is just another vehicle for them to stroke their ego, even if it is done subconsciously.
John Binkley Dallas has gone on many mission trips before, and he finds that the best results are achieved by those that don’t try to be a hero.
By focusing on the small tasks that need to be performed in order to effect long-term change, missionaries new and old can make a big difference in the lives of those that need it the most.
2) Dive straight into the culture
In order to reach the people that you are trying to help, it is best to just dive into the host culture rather than to stand on the sidelines.
By trying new foods, participating in local events, and getting to know everyday people, you stand a much better chance of winning the trust of the locals.
Aside from that, it is beneficial to your own personal growth to see, taste, and feel things from a perspective that is dramatically different than your own.
3) Don’t be a poverty tourist
While many people that go on mission trips genuinely want to help the people that they encounter, some have an attitude that can rub people the wrong way.
If they are focusing on taking pictures of poor people, feeling grateful for all that have back home by being amidst extreme poverty, or focusing solely on their own personal enjoyment, they are heading out on a mission for the wrong reasons.
While the time that you spend with locals and your fellow missionaries will give you lifelong memories that you will look back on with fondness, the focus of these trips need to be on the people that desperately need your assistance.
4) Teach your unique skills to the missionaries that will be replacing you
We all have things that we excel at more than others. If you have a skill that is unique and not well known by fellow missionaries, take the time to teach your contemporaries what you know.
Those that will replace you should also be schooled on this skill, as this will ensure continuity as new volunteers enter the program.
5) Don’t be modest about the generosity of locals
If there is one thing that your mission will teach you, it is that it is the poorest among us that are often the most hospitable.
However, it is important to note that in an attempt to be polite, many refuse offers of hospitality. This is a practice that do more harm than good, unbeknownst to many well-meaning missionaries.
Human beings are hard-wired to want to help each other, so to refuse them the opportunity to express their affection for you only serves to stifle this natural and healthy act.
You are doing tremendous good for these folks through the acts that you will be performing, so to allow them to show you their gratitude cannot be considered to be anything other than a good thing.