Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mission Trips - Trust me, you need to know.

Every year my organization sends hundreds of people to Kenya and Haiti. I admit that we don't have all of our kinks worked out, especially because all of our in-country staff is native Kenyan or Haitian...which automatically sets teams up for a different kind of experience than an American would expect. Part of my job is to train leaders and to send them out as prepared as they can be for the "unexpected." But I'm learning quickly that no matter how many people are "flexible," they're not actually flexible when it comes time to be flexible.

So I have a 2 tips for you if you are a potential trip leader, or even a trip participant on a short term mission trip:

1. Be Flexible. This almost always means that your schedule will change, you won't have information as quickly as you like it, and the information you get will probably not be as thorough as you prefer. Now, it is my goal to give our team leaders every ounce of information that I possess. However, it is sometimes more difficult than you might realize when we only work in very rural communities without electricity or running water. That means that the email I sent this morning might not get answered until the end of the week, if it gets answered. That DOES NOT mean that I/they are neglecting your team, are withholding information from you, or trying to set you up to fail. In fact, it means the exact opposite. That you have an opportunity to step into a new level of faith. To pray that God would direct how you prepare, and to be ready "in season and out of season" for whatever gets put in front of you. If you say "I can be flexible, I'd just like to know more in advance when this is happening," that probably means you're not actually going to be flexible. American mindsets and processes have the potential to rob us of an incredible experience that could have happened if we were just ready to do what God had orchestrated for us to do. And almost always its in a way that we least expect.

2. Be honoring. Find what is good in a culture. Learn what God is doing and partner with that. The food might be prepared differently, the beds might be hard or you might not have air conditioning. So what? You're not there to be served, but to serve.

What does it look like when you complain about your bed to a hotel staff member that doesn't even have a bed? What does it look like when you make a face at the dinner table to a family that prepares you a meal, and they used 3 months wages to make your experience the best it could be? Your reaction can make them feel so honored and valuable, or make them ashamed or embarrassed that they aren't good enough for your company. We need better control over our words and our actions. Honoring can be uncomfortable, stretching, or even painful, but it is the currency of the Kingdom. So we have to get better at it. The way you honor will make or break your ministry on your trip.

It's the trip leader's responsibility to set and maintain the culture of their team. Most people need to be shepherded, encouraged, and reminded of how good God is and how much potential there is for Him to work through them on a trip. It is easy to get side-tracked, so a good leader needs to be able to rally people back together on why they're there, who they're serving, and what it means to honor (not just when something goes wrong, but continually).

So there you have it. Follow these guidelines and you'll have the perfect team and trip experience. JK- it might not be perfect. But it will be better than it would have been had you not read this. Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

sgray said...

Perfect!!! Hopefully it will be read with an open heart and provide someone with the thought to pause and invest in the moment they are in.