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Don C. Richter’s book Mission Trips that Matter is an excellent resource for religious groups that are preparing for an international journey. Below are "five key lessons" that I took away from the book. Please share other learnings/applications from the book with the International Resources Office.

Five Key Lessons from Mission Trips that Matter

I. Know Why You’re Going

  • What’s the impulse for your travel? Compassion? Charity? Curiosity? Justice? (see pp 29-30).
  • What's the difference between a pilgrimage, a mission/witness trip, or an educational experience through travel? Will your trip emphasize any one or more of these (or other) purposes?
  • Are you planning to be involved with ministry during your trip? If so, what kind? Are you going to be offering a ministry or receiving a ministry? Who will you be ministering with? How will you know when “ministry” is happening?

II. Explore the Stories of Other Inspirational Pilgrims

  • Choose a patron “saint” for your journey (see pp 101-2, St. Francis of Assisi).
  • Learn from and employ your “saint’s” experiences.

III. Employ Story-telling and Praxis

  • Before you leave:

    • What can you learn about where you are going?
    • What can you learn about yourself and your companions?
    • What stories from your faith tradition can help prepare you?
    • What can you do to prepare to be involved in good ministry?
  • During the journey, set aside time to intentionally reflect on what is happening.

    • What are your seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling?
    • What is changing?
    • What is happening to relationships?
    • What will happen tomorrow?
  • During the journey, set aside intentional time for sharing stories and experiences.

    • Keep a record of the stories that are shared.
    • Reflect on the stories in light of:

      • The purposes of your trip.
      • Your faith, and the faith of people you are with.
      • Worship themes during the trip.
    • What religious learnings/truths do these stories point to?

IV. Integrate Worship

  • Begin and end each day with prayer or meditation. Provide yourself and all participants with a devotional idea to hold on to during the day (reflect on pp 58-67).
  • When visiting with other religious people, ask them to share their religious practices with you and invite them to experience yours.
  • Consider taking on a new (or building upon an old) spiritual practice during the trip (pp 105-112).

V. Cultivate Sustainable Partnerships and Ways to Continue this Ministry

  • Practice hospitality—as a guest and as a host.
  • Prepare for relationships that will exist after the trip is over.
  • Partner with agencies that are well-prepared (pp 150-153).
  • Prepare to tell your story and bring learnings back home.

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