Whether you’re traveling with a religious group to feed the hungry or a school group to take care of the sick, there’s more work involved in planning a mission trip than simply clicking on Expedia and booking an all-inclusive vacation. In fact, there are so many things to take care of that your travel checklist might start to look like Martin Luther’s “95 Theses.” Here are 10 guidelines for planning your mission trip.
1. Set up an emergency fund before you leave, and establish a communication plan with someone from home. Although needing to have money wired to you in some remote foreign outpost might seem like something out of the movies, unexpected events can happen. Having an emergency fund and a contact person provides a safety net.
2. Be sure you know the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy. Look up this information before you depart on your trip, and write down the address and telephone number. The U.S. Embassy is your home away from home and a sanctuary if anything happens to go wrong while you’re traveling.
3. Mission trip insurance is imperative for anyone doing work overseas. Mission trip insurance plans can be purchased for just dollars a day, and there are both individual and group policies as well as long- and short-term plans. If you’re going to go out and serve the world, you need to be covered for illness or injury.
4. Make two photocopies of your passport, visa, insurance plan, emergency contact information and any other important document you might be carrying on your trip. Leave one set with a friend at home and put the other in a separate place in your luggage.
5. Take care of all your transportation needs before you depart on your trip. Whether you’re scheduling a taxi to bring you to JFK airport or a safari jeep to pick you up on a dusty, one-lane runway in Africa, the more meticulously your transportation needs are planned and organized the better. While being stuck at an airport or forced to sleep a night in a train station is sometimes part of traveling, try to minimize these inconveniences.
6. It all depends where you travel, but it’s not uncommon to have to get inoculations before you visit certain countries. The Centers for Disease Control will be able to inform you if any necessary health precautions are needed. At the same time, it’s also a good idea to get a routine check-up before you leave. Knowing you’re healthy and fit for travel will give you peace of mind.
7. Study, research and learn everything you can about the host country. While you might have a general idea about the place you’re visiting, the more you know about the people, language, customs and culture, the better your overseas experience will be. Attaining a greater cultural sensitivity is one of the benchmarks of traveling.
While a mission trip takes more planning than a typical package holiday, the reward is tenfold. Henry Ford once said, “The object of life is work, experience and happiness. There is joy in work.” It’s a quote that could easily be applied to serving the world.