Journeying with Faith: a Discussion Guide for Mission Trips that Matter

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.