3 Things to Make SURE You Do
On Your Mission Trip!
"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30
Is there actually something that could totally ruin the message of Jesus that you came to bring to your mission point? When asked this question in various mission training camps I have gotten this response: "Wait, what? Of course not! It's Jesus!" And, of course, I understand that. And at the base of it's reality, I believe that. Yet, I'm going to share with you why I have shared with some that I believe your amazing message CAN be invalidated. I want to share three ways that can happen and start with one of my favourite stories ...
Don Richardson was a missionary to New Guinea in the 70s. He spent years working with a tribe of former cannibals. This group of people were not so many years from their former way of life. Mr. Richardson had a very difficult time teaching the gospel of Jesus to this group because they would lift up, get this, JUDAS, as a hero every time he got to that part in the story! You see, deceiving was a way of life. When they were cannibals, it was a great honour to have “fattened someone with friendship for the slaughter.” They would become friends, invite them into their homes, and then “have them for dinner.” You can’t call Judas “the bad guy” in a culture of deceivers! So how do we speak the message so it makes sense? How do we share so that it is always audience understood?
The only way the aforementioned tribe finally understood Jesus was for Mr. Richardson to watch and listen long enough - and finally observe that the rivaling tribes would often trade their leaders’ first-born. As long as that child was alive, there was peace between the tribes. When Mr.. Richardson introduced Jesus as the PEACE CHILD, they understood.
Whoa. Cool. And how does this apply to YOU?
First of all, consider the importance of YOUR PRESENTATION of the gospel. Of course! As a missionary, it's essential to consider the cultural background of the people you're speaking to. For instance, if someone believes in reincarnation, the idea of history might not be relevant to them. The Hindu religion believes in breaking the cycle of reincarnation.
So how do you communicate effectively with someone with these world views? Using phrases like "In the beginning" might not make sense to them since time is insignificant. It can be a bit tricky, but with the right approach, you can share the message of Jesus in a way that resonates with them.
For example, if you’re sharing the gospel with a group of Buddhists, they may be interested in hearing how Jesus can bring inner peace. Or you can focus on Jesus’ teachings on mercy and compassion when evangelizing to those who follow the Islamic faith. No matter what culture or religion you encounter during your mission trip, it's essential to understand their beliefs before sharing an overview of Christianity.
Second, let's think about UNDERSTANDING HOW CHANGE OCCURS. Cultural preparation is the thing that can help a missionary get to that point. There is a sad story about the Yir Yiront tribe of Stone Age Australians who eventually, I am not making this up, BROKE APART completely when a missionary brought in steel axes for every family.
What? Wouldn't steel axes HELP? Not really. Change isn’t always good. Typically it was the patriarch of the tribe who held a wooden axe. In their culture, without one leader ... there was no tribe.
This is why it's so important to consider the cultural context of your mission trip before you set out. Do research on the area, ask locals about their beliefs and customs, and talk with experienced missionaries who have been there before. This way, you can tailor your message to the people in an effective and respectful manner that will have a lasting impact.
By taking the time to prepare for short-term missions, you can ensure that your trip is meaningful and successful. You'll be able to share the gospel with others in a way that truly resonates with them—and bring about lasting change. This is something that will make an impact for generations to come.
And last, something that would be a major message invalidation is something YOU would never do! And that is that you would never show refusal to BE PATIENT & LEARN. But it happens. Oh, it happens. You may have even been on a trip with someone who choose not to eat food given to them by a neighbour because it didn't look appetizing. Yeah. Bad form. See, cultural preparation teaches the missionary to be a learner.
To listen and to be open.
By taking the time to become an expert in a specific culture, you can develop meaningful relationships with those who don't share your faith—and you'll be able to communicate the gospel more effectively throughout your mission trip.
So, how on earth can anyone be prepared for situations like the ones I just mentioned? And this is the goal in this post - to encourage you to dialogue with your missionaries about the delicacy of that culture and to discuss some important issues concerning adequate preparations for your short-term mission trip. It is imperative to communicate the positive long-term effects these trips can have but also consider that inadequate preparation can sabotage a good motive.
The guy in the cover photo? I don't see anyone else in the photo so he may simply be taking a photo of flora and fauna, but I sure hope if anyone is with him that he asked the people who know the country better than he does if it is okay to pull out his camera! You know what I mean ...
Even a brief peek into the realities of culture enable you missionary to better understand a different one - no matter how long you plan to stay there. You can start motivation with team activities, but even better, please start by finding out as much about the culture BEFORE you go. It’s a necessary preparation for effective mission trips and can help you to become an effective messenger of the gospel.
By taking the time to learn about the culture, beliefs, customs, and values of those in the area where you plan to go on your mission trip, you can have a greater understanding of how best to share Jesus' message—and bring about lasting change.
Remember, cultural preparation is essential for any mission trip—no matter how brief or long-term it may be. By making the effort to learn and understand a culture’s background before you go, you can make sure that your mission trip will be successful in sharing the gospel and bring about real, lasting change.
"He must become greater; I must become less." John 3:30
I believe in you. Now ... go! :-)