“Go ye therefore…” is one of the most recognized calls in Scripture. Jesus seems to have assumed that His people would travel the globe reaching out to others in His name. For those involved in this call today, the news is very good. Mission outreach opportunities abound, so much so that the problem is not finding an appropriate one but narrowing down the possibilities to a few that fit your needs, skills, and budgets.
For individuals and groups contemplating mission trips, time spent preparing thoroughly is essential. The first thing to consider is the personal question: “Why am I doing this?” This is a question that moves us away from having a tourist mentality to possessing a servant’s heart. Mission trips are not good ways simply to see new areas on the cheap. A would-be participant needs to consider what being away from home means: unfamiliar surroundings, strange food, possibly languages that are not understood. Some people do well with those while other do not. Know before you go! This link will take you to a good website that will help you think through these issues: http://www.shorttermmissions.com/
Once the decision has been made to do a mission trip, then the logistical planning begins: “Where are we going, how do we get there, and what do we do while there?”
Some mission needs arise from the events that unfold around us. For example, the devastation in New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina has called for ongoing work by many groups. Jim Burton, Senior Director for Partnership Mobilization at the North American Mission Board, tells about one such project – Operation Noah Rebuild (www.operationnoah.net).
Burton says, “This is our home and church rebuild effort in New Orleans. We’ve promoted this through Promise Keepers, and we are partnering with The Salvation Army. We’ve opened it to the larger evangelical community, civic, and corporate groups. We have lodging and logistics covered. The cost is $20 per day per volunteer. Operation Noah Rebuild will last through August 2008. They can register interest on the Web page or call 877-934-0808.”
There are many denominationally specific projects run by various agencies of denominations. For example, the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention has a project web site: http://going.imb.org/. It is for members of this denomination only. People searching for projects could search various denominations’ web sites to find appropriate projects.
Other groups have denominational sounding names, such as the Baptist Medical and Dental Fellowship, but they do not prohibit people from other backgrounds from serving in medical missions with them. Their site is http://www.bmdf.org/. A similar group is Global Missions Health Conference. They work primarily with health-related issues: https://www.medicalmissions.com/.
Mission Finder is a web site dedicated to coordinating various projects from widely diverse sources and locations: http://www.missionfinder.org/.
One group that provides information on short-term mission projects is the Fellowship of Short-Term Mission Leaders. Their web site is: http://www.fstml.org/about_description.php. Several conferences and workshops are held regularly to emphasize the needs of mission work. This web site — http://www.nstmc.org/default.asp — provides information on the National Short-Term Mission Conference.
Youth as well as adults are being challenged to think beyond their own comfort levels. Youth Specialties, for example, provides information and conferences for young people interested in mission trips: http://www.youthspecialties.com/events/
Travel out of the country requires a passport. The web site from the United States Department of State provides vital information on obtaining a passport and other valuable information on various locations around the world: http://travel.state.gov/passport/passport_1738.html.
Several travel agencies serve travelers with mission projects help. Raptim Travel, for example, is especially helpful with pricing and other information. Register at their site: http://www.raptimusa.com/index.php. Dozens of other sites can help travelers get all their arrangements from one location. Ones I like include these: www.sidestep.com; www.cheaptotravel.com; www.discountairbrokers.com; www.mobissimo.com; www.expedia.com; www.hotwire.com; and www.travelocity.com.
Obtaining insurance is always a good idea before heading off on a mission trip. Brotherhood Mutual Insurance can provide policies for overseas work, or you might check with your own insurer also. Speaking of insurance, you will want to consider travel insurance in case you buy expensive tickets and then need to cancel at the last minute due to an emergency.
My son is in medical school at the University of Miami. For two years he has gone with a group of doctors and students to Nicaragua to do medical missions. It has changed his entire outlook on life in other nations. The poverty and despair he saw there still affect him.
Many people who go away from home, either nationally or internationally, find themselves changed when they return home. They discover that the event has deepened them and opened their eyes to needs around them.
Someone once asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” We are still learning the answer to that question. The neighbor may be half a block or half a world away. Either way, Jesus said, “Go.” Just be wise when you do.
Don M. Aycock is Pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Palatka, Florida