Short-term mission trips: Go with a servant's heart

"Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:11

While a student at Southern Nazarene University, Kimberly Garrison spent a summer in Australia with a program called Youth in Mission. The following spring, as Kimberly prepared for graduation, she wrote a letter and sent it to the 25 SNU students who had been accepted for that summer's Youth in Mission program.

Here is what she wrote:

Dear Youth in Mission (future world travelers),

Hey guys:

This summer will be an experience you will treasure for life. I have never forgotten all that happened last summer when I was in Sydney, Australia! The joy you receive from those around you becomes your blessing. Be prepared to learn, to be blessed,, and be used in a way that you would never have expected to be used! Prepare your heart and leave for this summer having no expectations. Go with a servant's heart.

You guys are going to have a blast! I wish I were going too!

I thought I would make a little list of things to remember before you left. I could have used some of this advice before heading off to Australia! Here are some pointers for these next few weeks till you leave.

  1. Don't get discouraged about money! It will all come in! GOD is faithful!
  2. Pray now! Pray for your trip, for your team, and for the people you will meet.
  3. Give your summer mailing address (inclduing your email address) to as many people as you can. Receiving something from home can be a great comfort.
  4. Take lots of pictures! Pictures are forever memories. There are faces that you will never want to forget!
  5. Pack gifts for your host families and kids. Little stuff (gum, little toys, balls, anything fun, they will love it!).
  6. Prepare your heart. Your world will be rocked!
  7. Don't overpack! I made that mistake and had to lug around everything from house to house because I just couldn't toss it all away. Leave room for souvenirs for when you come home.
  8. Those of you going to other countries: Make sure you are not packing useless stuff. In Australia, unless you had am outlet converter, it was useless to pack a curling iron or blow dryer because its plug didn't fit into the wall outlets.
  9. Prepare yourself to be open to strangers! Training camp is a combination of a mini-term class and summer camp. It will be draining emotionally, physically, and spiritually. But when Saturday comes, you will realize how awesome an experience it truly was!
  10. Have fun! And, like they will drill into your head at training camp, "Be flexible!"

Loving people to show them Christ will be the biggest ministry you will have this summer! Remember: this summer is all about HIM! It's not about what you can or cannot do, but what He can do through you!

Have a great time! I know you will. If you have any other questions or maybe want to see some of my pictures and my scrapbook, let me know. I'll be praying for you guys! God will bless your summer and the experiences that lie ahead of you. Take a smile with you everywhere you go.

To those of you going to Australia: Give the entire Harris family a huge hug. Brian, an older man that some of you might stay with, is the best! Tell them all that I love them. Well, just "hi" will probably be all you will think of.

Trust me. It is so overwhelming and awesome when you get there. Have a great summer! God Bless!
Have a blast!

Sincerely, Kimberly Garrison

"Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers." -- Acts 15:32

-- Howard Culbertson,


People going on short-term missions trips can benefit from the following advice:

  1. Be Humble: Recognize that you're there to serve and learn, not to impose your own ideas or beliefs onto others.
  2. Cultural Sensitivity: Before arriving, take time to understand the local culture, customs, and norms. Respect cultural differences and avoid making assumptions.
  3. Flexibility: Plans may change, and situations may not always go as expected. Be adaptable and open to new experiences.
  4. Listen More Than You Speak: Pay attention to the needs and desires of the local community. Actively listen to their stories and perspectives.
  5. Partnership Mentality: Work alongside local organizations and community members rather than taking over or acting independently.
  6. Long-term Impact: Consider how your short-term efforts can contribute to sustainable, long-term solutions. Focus on empowerment rather than dependency.
  7. Self-Care: Take care of your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being during the trip. Recharging and staying healthy are important to effectively serve others.
  8. Reflect and Learn: Take time to reflect on your experiences and what you've learned. Consider how you can apply these lessons in your own life and community.
  9. Respect Boundaries: Respect the privacy and boundaries of the people you encounter. Ask for permission before taking photos or sharing personal stories.
  10. Stay Engaged: Stay engaged with the community even after the trip ends. Consider ways to continue supporting the projects or organizations you worked with.

More on short-term mission trips

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