Going on Faith

Winter 2017

The Magazine for faith-based travel planners.

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going on faith [ goingonfaith.com ] 9 GET IN-DEPTH, PRE-TRIP TRAINING. A good short-term mission trip begins before travelers ever leave home. Pretrip training is imperative for helping travelers and volunteers understand the geographic, cultural, political, economic and spiritual climate in which they will be working. Travelers should learn to be culturally sensitive, servant minded and realistic about the kinds of experiences they are about to have. A well-trained team can have a much more positive impact on the places they visit than a group with no discipline or unrealis- tic expectations. 2) AVOID THE WESTERN SAVIOR MENTALITY. It's common for short-term mission travelers from wealthy, developed countries to believe they have the answers for the poverty and problems of the Third World simply because they come from a more prosperous place. But your group is not going to eradicate poverty in seven days, and a nation's systemic challenges will remain long after you leave. Instead, work with partners on the ground to determine how best to serve and reach out to locals in ways that are respectful and culturally sensitive. 3) WORK WITH LOCALS, NOT FOR LOCALS. Unless you're a professional construction worker, chances are you have little real value to offer in building a school or orphanage. There are local tradesmen in the places you visit who can do the work much better than you and who would be grateful for the opportunity. Don't base your mission trips on doing work that locals could do for themselves. Instead, find ways to work alongside locals and support them in what they are doing, even if that work is menial or unattractive. 4) SERVE THE LONG-TERM MISSIONARIES ON-SITE. Many short-term mission teams work hand in hand with long-term missionaries on the ground. And although those people are sometimes grateful to have short-term help from home, the time, effort and expense of hosting a short-term group from America often detracts from more important relationship-building work in the com- munity. Instead of expecting long-term missionaries to act as your local tour directors for a week, find ways to serve them individually and to encourage them personally, even if that means spending less time with locals. 5) PROMOTE THE LOCAL CHURCH. After your team leaves the mission field, the long-term fruit of your work will depend largely on the local churches in the area where you worked. Good mission trips should always work in tandem with local churches and help those pastors and congregations make inroads into their communities. When in doubt, do things to put local Christians in the spotlight, and keep your team busy serving in the background. Here are 10 rules gathered from mission experts that will help your mission trips make a lasting, positive difference. 6) BE FLEXIBLE. If you lead leisure group trips for your church, you might be accustomed to sticking to a well-organized itinerary. But rigid scheduling can be a nightmare in foreign countries, where things often happen at a much slower pace than they do in the United States. Flexibility is key — understand that plans may change, events may be rescheduled or get started very late, and resources you were counting on may prove unavailable when you need them. Take the changes in stride, and teach your travelers to do the same. 7) OFFER ON-SITE MENTORING. For people who have never traveled abroad before, the first contact with foreign cultures, poverty and other interna- tional experiences can be overwhelming. It's not uncommon for young, inexperienced volunteers to shut down mentally and spiritually in the face of these challenges. Therefore, you should dedicate a significant amount of your time in the field to group devotions, debriefing and mentoring to help your travelers deal with the things they are experiencing and keep their attitudes positive. 8) PREACH THE GOSPEL, NOT AMERICA. People in foreign countries often have different views of global events and America's role in them than we do at home. The mission field is not a place to wave the American flag or promote your political outlook. Instead, focus solely on meeting people's needs and spreading the Gospel. And understand that the expression of Christianity in the local culture might look different than it does in America. That's a good thing. Don't try to make foreign believers fit into the American Christian mold. 9) PRACTICE POST-TRIP FOLLOW-UP. Studies have found that although most short-term mission- aries experience elevated spiritual zeal and com- mitment during and immediately after a trip, those feelings often taper off in the months and years after a trip. And some travelers even become jaded or downcast because of difficult things they have seen in the mission field, which may damage their relationship with God. Experts believe it is important for church leaders to follow up with mission participants on a regular basis after trips to help them work through negative feelings and turn their temporary spiritual momentum into long-term, sustainable growth. BUILD LONG-TERM RELATIONSHIPS. Short-term mission trips are, by definition, limited, but church groups can have greater impacts in the places they visit by intentionally building long- term relationships. Instead of taking your groups to a different place every year, find a place where your church can invest with trips year after year or even more frequently if possible. This allows locals to develop a level of trust with you that isn't possible in a one-time trip, and it helps you get to know the community better and develop a keener sense of how to make the most positive impact.

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