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Mission Trips That Move You Forward

Stepping Stones to Long-term Service

By David Armstrong & Marti Wade

God is calling his people to take the gospel to every corner of the world. More cross-cultural workers are needed! What are some ways you can discover God’s leading in your life and take the next steps in your journey?

Go on a mission trip that prepares you for future service.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably already been on at least one short-term mission trip. But you may not be ready to buy a one-way ticket. So look for a trip that will make a good next stepping stone for your ministry in the years to come. Mission trips that do the most to move you into a lifetime of service usually include these four things:

  1. Duration: You go for two months or more.
  2. Mentoring: You spend significant time with someone already on the field, learning from them.
  3. Potential: You serve with a ministry that could also send you long-term.
  4. Experience: You try out what you expect to do later.

Anyone can gain even more from any mission trip by putting these three things on your priority list as well:

  1. Preparation: Before you go, learn all you can about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing.
  2. Relationships: Focus on spending time with people rather than on tasks and activities.
  3. Reflection: Commit to learn as much as you can by processing what you feel, think, and experience during and after the trip.

“In the brief time spent on a short-term trip, the taste of day-to-day life in a foreign country is for the most part very romanticized. Although you may feel like you’ve experienced life on the field, it does not compare to the routine of daily life that most missionaries encounter ... Spending an extended period of time on the field will allow you to experience the day-to-day life of career missionaries and see if God might be leading you there for longer.” —The Traveling Team

Besides choosing your mission trips wisely, what else can you do to prepare yourself to be used by God in missions?

Tell someone.

Talk to others about what you’re thinking. Let them know about your interest in long-term cross-cultural service. Don’t just journal about it, think about it, and keep it to yourself. In order to move forward you need to start interacting with others. Maybe you need a mentor. And you should definitely talk to your pastor!

This process may include a conversation with a mission agency or two. Most mission representatives would love to hear about what God is doing in your life, even if you do not end up joining their group. They can help answer your questions and identify your next steps. Are you a professional, maybe an entrepreneur? Explore the unique opportunities to use your professional skills in ministry.

Fan the flame.

Seek out what will help prepare you to go. Increase your readiness with activities like these:

  • Read a mission biography.
  • Take a class to help you learn about how God has been reaching his world.
  • Pray for specific people and countries in the world.
  • Take a missionary to coffee and hear about his or her life.
  • Go to a mission conference or gathering.
  • Find a few like-minded people and start meeting together.
  • Get ministry experience at your church.
  • Increase your intake of Scripture; consider taking Bible classes.
  • Become a friend of other cultures. Try new foods, befriend internationals, watch travel shows, and read about other countries.

Want more on these and other related topics? Visit our sister sites AskaMissionary.com and PreparingtoGo.com.

David Armstrong is Co-founder and Executive Director for Mission Data International and serves on the steering committee for Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission.

Marti Wade has been a mission mobilizer since 1995 and has trained dozens of short-term teams for relationship-based research among the world’s least-reached peoples.

This article first appeared in the ShortTermMissions.com Newsletter.