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.