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Mission trip preparation


1. Plan to travel light

How do you fit a whole trip's worth of luggage into a small backpack or carryon suitcase? The answer is simple: Bring very little. Don't pack for the worst-case scenario. Pack for the best-case scenario.  When in doubt, leave it out.  Prioritize items by gathering items that you think you need and laying them out with your carryon.  

2. What do you need

Think in terms of what you can do without instead of what will be handy on your trip. Packing 2 weeks of items into a carryon is not an easy task, but it can be done.  Hundreds of others have done just that.  Remember to rank the items you want to take based on their worth.  Prescription medication is a must-have.  A water bottle is not.  Your passport and visa are a must-have. A guidebook is not. You get the idea and when you have to pick one to fit, it will become even more clear. 

3. What do you want

It's not all bad and, I assure you, you won't have to live "without".  It's just a matter of changing your way of thinking. You'll quickly learn how many items that we use on a daily basis are truly not needed to serve others. This doesn't mean that you won't get to bring anything to make your life easier or more comfortable.  You'll be surprised when the needed for survival items are packed, there is room for wants as well.

4. What to bring

There are things that are needed, wanted, and desired for all.  These things often differ from person to person.  Here are some suggested items for the trip.

  • Passport / Visa

  • Cash / Credit Card (small amount for emergency)

  • Travel pouch/wallet

  • Prescription medication

  • Camera / Phone

  • Bible

  • Insect repellent

  • Sunscreen

  • Sunglasses

  • Shoes / Sandals

  • Shirts / Shorts

  • Pants / Dress

  • Power inverter

5. Think ahead

While packing balance what you have with you vs. what you can get later if you need it. Hotels have soaps, shampoos, towels, and toothbrushes.  You can always purchase more toothpaste, deodorant, etc if you run out. Have fun with it. See how easy it can be.   

6. What to leave behind

Remember it's not a question of can you use it but can you live without it. There are some items that you shouldn't bring.

  • Tight clothing

  • Short skirts

  • Tank tops

  • Low-cut tops

  • Jewelry

  • Large amounts of cash

  • Jackets

  • Swimsuits

  • Towels

7. Remember you are there to serve

Remember it's not about us while we are there.  Try to have a servant's mindset when you are packing. Remember that God has placed you here to shine His light and not our own.  More things can often point back to us.  Use this opportunity to be faithful in service. 


1. Make a plan for after the trip

This is first on the list because it is often the last thing we think about… if we think about it at all! But what happens after your trip is just as important as the preparation that happens before! Make a plan for you to meet friends and celebrate the trip afterward, schedule a time to share your story in church or in another way with supporters, and begin thinking now about how you will apply the things you’ll learn. Consider other creative ways to share the story of what God did in and through you during your trip.

2. Pray

This is not rocket science. If you want your trip to be successful, you need God’s help. Take time to pray for your heart, your team, your safety, your travel, your fundraising, the people you will meet and the service you will do. Not only will prayer invite God into this experience, but it will also help you prepare for whatever God has in store.

3. Develop healthy expectations

It’s good to be expectant, but sometimes our expectations can run away with us. You should expect that God will do great things in and through you during your trip. The trouble can come when we begin getting very specific with our imaginations of what our experience will be like. Be careful not to turn your expectations for a good trip into criteria for a good trip. Take some time to consider how you will respond if aspects of your trip don’t go as planned. Talk about what healthy hopes mean for your team. And if you’re headed back to the same community you’ve served in before, don’t fall into the trap of expecting things to be the same as last time. The best expectation you can have is that God will work how God wants to and that you will get to participate in God’s often-surprising plans.

4. Learn the story of the country and the community

It will help a lot if you understand the backdrop of the scene you enter. Every community’s story is unique, and you are about to become part of that story, so read a book, watch a documentary, do a Google search or ask some questions of those who have been there before. Your mission trip experience will be enriched when you understand the history, struggles, and beauty of the place you serve.

5. Learn the culture (and the language)

You don’t need to become fluent in cultural practices or a new language to do meaningful ministry, but you’ll be amazed at how learning a little can go a long way. Take some time to learn about any cultural cues and a few phrases in the language (the more the better!). Putting these into practice will communicate great value toward the culture you are entering as a guest.

6. Grow together with your team

Simply put, growing as a team takes time – together! In the months before your trip find the time when members of the team can be together. This is time for your specific group of people to begin to understand each other’s rhythms, strengths, and rough spots. Gather your team supplies together. Talk about the expectations and concerns together.  Pray together.  You are about to experience something challenging, beautiful and incredible. Don't forget that God placed these people together for a purpose.

7. Talk to your supporters

Not just the people who are giving you money, but the people who support you in life. Who do you want praying for you, encouraging you, and processing the experience with you when you get home? Who are the people who you want to understand this experience? Whether it’s a written note or an in-person conversation, remind them of what you’re doing, thank them for being a supporter in your life and ask them to be in prayer for all the pieces of what you’re about to step into.

8. Get prepared physically

You might be ready in every other way imaginable, but then get sick during the trip because you just weren’t ready for the physical requirements. Here are a few quick things to do to prepare physically:

  • Exercise: You’ll likely be on your feet and on the move during every day of your trip. If you currently don’t exercise, then start. It might be as simple as going for a 30–60-minute walk each day.

  • Break unhelpful eating habits: You will not have the same food available to you during your trip. If you are accustomed to going to McDonald’s every day or drinking Starbucks each morning, it might be frustrating when you don’t have those opportunities on your trip. Consider what habits you can give up on your own before you are forced to during your trip.

  • Prepare to adjust your sleep patterns:  Good rest will greatly aid you during your trip. Train your body beforehand to sleep and wake up at the times you’ll need to during your trip.

  • Avoid sickness:  Do whatever you can in the weeks and days leading up to your trip to stay healthy, so you can enter your trip in tiptop shape.

9. Seek spiritual health

Showing Jesus’ love to others is awfully hard if you are not experiencing that love in your own life. Maybe you’ve been putting spiritual practices on the back burner, maybe there’s something you’re struggling with, or maybe you’re lacking good Christian community in your life.  Whatever it is, seek to grow closer to Christ as you prepare to serve and learn from others on your trip. If that sounds hard, talk to someone you respect for their commitment to Christ. The reality is that we all struggle in some ways and no one who goes on a mission trip is perfect – not even close! But, the more you can seek a good relationship with God before the trip, the better equipped you’ll be to live and speak God’s love to others.

Courtesy: Sam Townshend for RealResources 2020

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