November 15th, 2013

Intentional Mission Trips: A Powerful Discipleship Tool

Stories abound of people whose lives have been profoundly impacted by volunteer mission trips. Many career missionaries are serving today thanks to their earlier involvement with a short term team.

Yes, the nature of the mission trip itself is impactful—leaving one’s comfort zone, stepping out in faith, ministering cross-culturally, and so on. But what if mission trip leaders were more intentional in using their trips to grow people? What if they saw it as an extension of their call to “make disciples,” not just overseas but also among their team members? Could the long-term impact of these trips be even greater? Most likely, the answer is yes.

In Robert Coleman’s book The Master Plan of Evangelism Jesus’ methods in making disciples are outlined. The book, originally written in 1963, has been reprinted and updated numerous times. It has impacted many people over the years, and is quoted in 100 books currently for sale on Amazon. In it, Coleman shows eight things that Jesus did to model disciple making: selection, association, consecration, impartation, demonstration, delegation, supervision and reproduction.

What if those same eight elements were done in conjunction with volunteer mission trips? With these components, the trip could easily become one of the most effective discipleship tools available.

They key, however, is being intentional. Let’s face it: there is a lot that goes into running a mission trip. Everything from recruiting a team, planning logistics, training participants, preparing national workers, budgeting, and the list goes on. Being an intentional disciple maker may not fall high on the list—but it should. Incorporating Coleman’s eight elements into your next trip can be done with a little forethought ahead of time and some focus during the trip.

April 30th, 2013

Help for the Novice Traveler

Sometimes, members of your mission group are new to overseas travel, or simply haven’t traveled for some time. Here are some ways trip leaders can help team members who are travel novices.

Don’t make assumptions about your team when it comes to their level of travel experience. You probably will have team members who fly only occasionally, or who haven’t flown in a significant period of time. So, early in your team interactions, try to get a feel for each team member’s travel comfort level.

Talk through the travel process with your team. Make sure you address things like luggage weight and size limits, as well as the importance of making sure the gate agent puts the right tag on the bags. Explain the security screening process and the need to keep liquids in three-ounce containers inside a clear, quart-sized, plastic bag. Also discuss the boarding process.

Have a travel interruption contingency plan, especially if your team isn’t traveling in one group. You should have this plan even if you have a team of experienced travelers. For the infrequent flyer, this is vital.

Discuss what to do if a flight is canceled or delayed (see our past blog posts on Dealing with Airline Gate Agents and Avoiding Weather Delays for tips). If you purchase travel insurance through Ministry Travel, make sure that your team has the policy information and contact numbers. This insurance usually covers trip interruptions and provides 24-hour travel assistance.

Enlist travel buddies, especially for older travelers or those who are nervous about flying. Pair a team member who is an experienced traveler with someone who is not.

Explain how passport control and customs work, both for the country you are traveling to and for the U.S. on your return. These tips will help you greatly improve the rookie traveler’s experience.

March 28th, 2013

Essential Travel Gadgets

If there’s one thing that modern travelers can’t live without, what would it be? Not their clothes, maps, guidebooks or backpacks. No, it would be the gadgets and gizmos that they bring with them, the iPods, digital cameras and GPS trackers. Some can be very useful on your travels.

Consider using these for your next international trip:

The hardworking multi-tool: Essential on any outdoorsy trip and even in indoor situations, a multi-tool is handy in a multitude of situations. The Swiss Army knife has blades, scissors, bottle and can openers, screwdrivers, tweezers, toothpick, nail file and hook, among other accessories.

The illuminating flashlight: A flashlight is indispensable to your travels. LED flashlights are small, light, powerful and battery-efficient.

The secure money clip: Leave the wallet at home. Bulky, flashy and a magnet for pickpockets, chunky wallets and fat purses are no help to the gadget traveler. Instead, use a money clip, which is slimmer and more secure. You can keep your cash in the front instead of the back pocket, reducing the risk of falling prey to thieves.

The handy adapter and power strip: When you’re jumping continents, keeping track of which adapter to use in which country can be a nightmare. Pack a universal international adapter that will let you access power points all over the world, and a power strip with at least three outlets. Look for a surge protector that also has USB jacks that can be used to charge iPods or mobile phones.

The healing first aid kit: First aid kits are a must for travelers. Even though every traveler hopes for the best, it’s best to prepare for the worst. Travel first aid kits don’t just provide bandages, painkillers and anti-bacterial creams; they also supply you with useful-in-a-pinch items like safety pins, rubber gloves, sterilized wipes and tape.

So along with the iPod, make sure you include these great gadgets on your next trip. You will be glad you did!

March 20th, 2013

Raising Funds for your Mission Trip

You leave the information meeting excited. In fact, you may have never been as excited about anything in your life as you are about this. It’s an opportunity to touch lives and make a difference in the world through a mission trip. You can picture yourself there: serving, helping, sharing. With the volunteer application form in one hand and the trip brochure in the other, you sit down to read through the materials. Everything is great except, for one part of the brochure: the part with the dollar sign in it.

 

“How can I ever come up with that much money?” you ask yourself. They talked about fundraising in your meeting, and you know other people who have done this, but still, it’s a lot of money!

 

You can take comfort in knowing that using a missionary fare from Ministry Travel may allow you to focus on your fundraising without having to pay until 30 to 45 days before your departure (depending on the airline).

 

But when it comes to raising the funds, where do you start? First, take a deep breath and then pray! The saying, “Where God guides, God provides,” has proven true countless times over. Second, come up with a fund- raising plan. God does provide, but He also expects us to demonstrate our commitment. Consider creating a plan with five parts: the support letter, friend involvement, fundraisers, social media and personal sacrifices.

 

In this article we will focus on the support letter. For many mission trip volunteers, this is the first — and sometimes only — tool they use to raise funds. This is a letter sent to family and friends outlining the mission you are undertaking and inviting them to consider supporting you. In the day of electronic everything, many people have abandoned the hard-copy support letter for the much easier email version. My suggestion, however, is to stick to snail mail.

 

There are several reasons why “old-fashioned” just might be better. First, people are so inundated with email today that your message can easily be lost or ignored. Second, there is something special about getting a personal letter in the mail. Also, people typically don’t make the decision to give support the moment they hear about the need. They ponder it, talk about it with their spouse, etc. Your hard-copy letter is a physical reminder that they need to make a decision.

 

So what makes for an effective support letter? Three things: brevity, clarity and a response mechanism. Keep the letter to one page. People have short attention spans and respond better to a focused message. State clearly why you decided to go on this trip and exactly what you will be doing. Then ask the person for support and provide a return envelope. If they can give online, make sure that information is include as well.

 

What about people for whom you only have an email address? Go ahead and put your support letter verbiage in an email. Just make sure it includes the elements mentioned above. Since you can’t email a physical envelope, the message should include a link where they can give instantly or where they can print out mailing instructions (instant is best!). Also, email should be even shorter than a traditional letter. You can include a link in it to more information if necessary.

 

January 28th, 2013

Connecting With a New Culture

One of the biggest challenges that any of us may face while on a mission trip is genuinely connecting with the people we are ministering to overseas. The stumbling block may be language, culture or lack of commonalities, but its never insurmountable.

Language
Did you know that over 90% of communications are non-verbal? So, it really does not matter if you speak Swahili or Tamil or French. Love is something that can be communicated without words. That being said, it goes a long way to try to learn some basic words such as “hello,” “nice to meet you,” “thank you,” and “God bless you” before (or during) your trip. More than being able to communicate it shows a mutual level of respect for the people with whom you are sharing your time.

Culture
Culture is a combination of traditions, beliefs and shared history and heritage common to a people group. If you come from outside the culture, you are not expected to understand right away what a to them is second nature. You may not be a native, but you can understand parts of the culture. The key is to observe with an open mind. Pay attention to what is happening in the culture and reserve judgments. Remember the things that happen in your culture may seem odd, silly or just plain wrong to other people. Each people group has reasons for doing things the way that they do. Different does not equal wrong.

If you are traveling on a missions trip, it is most likely because you are care very deeply for a people or country. Your love for the people you are going to minister to and the love of Christ will be apparent the more time you spend with people and care for them as Christ did. Do not refrain from interacting with people out of fear of not knowing their language or customs. Instead you can be Christ’s hands and feet even if you are silent. A hug, a shared game of soccer, or picking up a child when they fall, these expressions of love speak loudly in any language.

January 8th, 2013

Instead of Empty Resolutions, Renew Your Faith

Every New Year, countless people make New Year’s Resolutions that are destined to be broken. Instead of focusing on these empty promises, renew your faith by spending more time with God. You don’t have to make a resolution to spend 30 minutes a day or to wake up at 6 a.m. Just spend time in prayer and devotion with the Lord, however much time you can, whenever you can. Even if you falter next week, next month or in 6 months, you will benefit from the time you did spend intimately with God.

Ways to Go Deeper:

1. Read a Daily Devotional – daily devotions are short and sweet, which means even on a busy day you can take 5 minutes to read them. Most people underutilize their daily devotional, which often includes more than 1 scripture verse or reference. If you want to go deeper, look up these verses and meditate on them.

2. Use a Study Bible - study bibles provide context, text notes, and even in text devotions. Using a study bible may help you to get more out of your reading.

3. Be Realistic - if you have three small children and a job, you probably cannot spend a full, uninterrupted hour a day on devotions. But you can take 5 minutes here and there throughout the day. The importance is not the amount of time, but the intent to fully seek Him.

4. Be Patient - it takes time to develop a habit of studying and praying. Many feel discouraged when they fail to meet their own expectations, which can lead to dropping the idea altogether. This isn’t the answer! If the whole point is to spend more time with God, then anytime we spend is more than we would be if we get discouraged and give up. God honors our attempts, even if our execution isn’t always perfect. So be patient with yourself and enjoy the time you are spending with Our Father.

5. Don’t Keep Score – if you did devotions all last week, but were distracted yesterday and forgot, it doesn’t mean you have to pull double duty today. It’s not a zero sum game. Devotions and quiet time with God are about dedicating time to a relationship. If you don’t see your friend today, but you talk tomorrow, you may have more to talk about, but the relationship doesn’t have to suffer.

Drawing closer to God is the best gift you can give yourself in the New Year. And the great part is it doesn’t cost a thing. Your relationship with God is what you make of it. He’s always there for you, are you there for Him?

December 11th, 2012

Cover Your Basis

When planning a trip, unexpected issues such as illness, lost bags or flight delays are usually far from the mind. Instead, most people are excitedly anticipating making new friends, visiting a new place and serving others.

If you are a group leader, you know what a big responsibilty it is to have the welfare of 20+ people on your hands. People get sick from the water, food or colds and need to see a doctor, airlines delay flights or misplace luggage.

While these issues are minor and easily overcome with time and effort, having travel insurance can greatly reduce the amount of time and money that you personally have to spend resolving issues. This means more time focused on your group and your mission and less time hunting down rogue baggage. It also means peace of mind knowing that yourself or your church will get reimbursed for money spent on medical bills, meal costs while travel is delayed and/or toothbrushes for those whose bags may come tomorrow.

Many organizations require the purchase of travel insurance for all travelers. But even if they do not, we still recommend it. People traveling in groups can purchase insurance together in one transaction. This will ensure that all of your travelers are covered.

Basically, it just comes down to covering your basis. No one wants to encounter these issues and we hope you do not experience them ever, but if you do we want you to have the resources to deal with the situation quickly and effectively.

You can purchase travel insurance at any time up until your departure date, but the earlier you purchase the more benefits that you can receive. The best option is to purchase travel insurance with your tickets, the next time you book a flight. If you have already booked a flight and would like to buy travel insurance contact your agent or email Anna Bianco at anna@ministrytravel.com.

November 28th, 2012

Fundraising Tips

It’s something that makes even the most confident of people a little nervous — that word that no one likes… Fundraising. But it doesn’t have to be as difficult and nerve racking as many people make it. Here are some tips on how to raise the money you need for your missions trip without losing sleep or pulling your hair out over it.

1. Pray — Everything should begin with prayer. Pray that the Lord would help you to trust Him for the funds for your trip. Pray that the Lord would help you to identify people who might be able to contribute to your fundraising. Pray that people’s hearts would be prepared for your appeal. Most of all pray for peace that no matter what happens if God wants you to go on this trip, the funds will follow.

2. Identify Possible Contributors — Everyone knows someone who can help them to go on their trip. Start with family and friends, people who love and care about you and want to see God work in your life. Talk to your church about a direct donation from the mission’s budget or the ability to appeal to church members for a donation. Write a list of people that you are going to talk to and the amount that you are requesting from them.

3. Write It Down — Whether you are going to send out a letter or make a phone call, write down the points that you would like to make about why a person should donate towards your trip. Your presentation will go smoother and you will have something to refer to if you lose your place or get nervous.

4. Make It Personal — This trip is PERSONAL, it clearly means something to you or you most likely wouldn’t be going. Include stories, pictures and talk about why God is calling you to go on this trip.

5. ASK — So many people write letters and make calls, but cannot get up the courage to ASK. You have to ask, otherwise people do not know there is a need. They may just think that you are letting them know that you are going or that you expect someone else to give. Let them know that you are requesting a donation from them, include a specific amount if possible and let them know that no donation is too small.

6. No Is Okay — Remember that just because someone says no, it is not the end of the world. Your relationship to that person is more important than the money they might have given. Most people will surprise you and the majority will say yes in some capacity, but remember some people will say no. And they may have good reason to do so, you never know what people are going through so be compassionate. Ask them to consider praying for your trip and if possible to pray about some people that they might know that could contribute.

Most importantly, trust. Learning to trust your finances to God is a journey. Know that everything under the sun is His anyway and that He will provide what you need if He wants you to be there. With one caveat, you have to be willing to do the work by letting people know that there is a need. God will take care of the rest.

October 23rd, 2012

Checklist for Travel

Missions Planning Checklist

6 to 9 months before trip:

  • Book Air Travel
  • Apply for Passports
  • Research Visa Requirements
  • Schedule a Doctor’s Visit

4 to 6 months before trip:

  • Apply for Visas
  • Pay Deposits For Air Travel
  • Purchase Insurance
  • Physical Exam & Immunizations

2 to 3 months before trip:

  • Meet With Group
    • Collect Medical Information
    • Collect Emergency Contact Information
    • Reminders on Due Dates of Payments
    • Verify All Information
    • Discuss Baggage
    • Submit Final List of Participants

1 month before trip:

  • Verify All Group Members Have Passports & Visas
  • Make Sure Group Leader Has All Needed Information
  • Check-In With Field Office

2 weeks before trip:

1 week before trip:

  • Begin Packing Personal Items
  • Confirm Flights

1 day before trip:

  • Check-In for Flights
  • Confirm Participants Have Their Passports/Visas
  • Label Luggage – Label Donations Separately
September 24th, 2012

Duty of Care for Travelers

Ministries with employees who travel across borders are increasingly concerned about managing risk to their travelers. It is very important to document your travel policy and prepare for when employees get sick, experience a natural disaster or are located in an unstable country.

Unfortunately, many ministries are often not prepared and face needless litigation, damaged reputations and interruptions to their operations.

Review your travel policy with the following questions:

Do You Know Where Your Travelers Are At Any Given Moment?

Your travel policy should reinforce the importance for all travelers to book their reservations through the designated Travel Management program for tracking purposes.

Is There An Emergency Evacuation Plan?

Is there clear information in the travel policy about procedures in the event a traveler has to be evacuated due to medical reasons, high risk situations, etc.?

Approval for International and High Risk Travel?

Are there specific procedures clearly stated for travelers to obtain proper approval for some or all international travel and specifically travel to high risk destinations?

Do You Have Organizational Intelligence Documentation?

Is there clear language regarding controlling laptops, PDAs, SmartPhones, etc. at all times to mitigate potential theft of organizational intelligence and information stored on such devices?

If you are an international ministry, take a look at your travel policy and determine if any or all of the above are addressed. Please feel free to contact us if we can be of any assistance developing or maintaining your travel policy!