So you are getting your bags packed getting ready for your first short-term missionary trip. How are you preparing? You’ve got your flashlight in case of night-time bathroom trips to the long drop, your hand sanitizer for no telling what kind of germs you might get and your cans of Pringles chips because who knows what you will be eating.
I’m no expert. I can only speak from my own experiences. Here are my top 10 tips on how you can be the short-term missionary everyone wants to return the following year:
10. Read the organization’s criteria for your trip.
A mission organization’s manual is to help you as a missionary team member. It contains useful things you should know. Please take the time to read any information the organization you are serving with sends you.
9. Weigh your luggage before preparing to board.
Do you really want to be the one on the team pulling out things in the middle of the airport? Enough said.
8. Take time to learn about the culture you are ministering to. To properly prepare Bible lessons or minister to physical needs, one needs to know how the family/community operates. Is polygamy practiced? What are the main religions among the culture?
7. Learn some basic language phrases of the people you are working with.
I can’t express how much villagers appreciate when we communicate with them in their own language. It feels awkward. You are not always going to get it right and that is okay. They will laugh with you. Feel the fear and do it anyway.
6. Don’t immediately decline any food offered to you.
In many cultures one may express their thanks by offering you food. In very poor areas, an immediate response may be to think that you are taking away from them. They don’t see it like that. It is their gift to you and it is rude not to receive it.
5. Don’t raise your voice to speak with someone.
Just because they speak another language doesn’t mean they are deaf. Raising your voice is not going to help their understanding. Just speak naturally.
4. Don’t take ten minute showers.
Water may be a precious commodity in the area you are in. The organization we are with asks that one gets wet, turns the water off and lathers up, then turns the water back on to rinse off. Plus, many times you will have team members in line waiting not so patiently for you to get done.
3. Don’t take photos without asking.
Would you want someone pulling into your yard and snapping photos of you? Most likely not. I rarely find someone who doesn’t want their picture taken, but it is just nice to ask or simply point to your camera to let them know you are taking pictures. Children especially love to see themselves on the camera’s screen.
2. Don’t eat your store-bought goodies that you stashed in your suitcase in front of everyone.
Whipping out a bag of chips in front of children watching you from a distance is plain rude. Giving to a child here or there is not acceptable either. If you don’t have enough for everyone then don’t share. Keep your goodies in your tent or wherever and enjoy them hidden from view.
And the #1 don’t:
1. Don’t whip out your hand sanitizer after every hand you touch.
I think even the private detective Monk would know better than to do that. If you must sanitize, then do it discreetly away from people who are watching your every move and sizing you up to see if your care for them is genuine.
Your words and actions speak volumes.
Laugh with them.
Most importantly, share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.
What can you add to the list?