Missionary work is both noble and immensely rewarding. Take advantage of both your skills and sense of adventure, and you can make a tangible difference in the lives of people who need it the most.
Naturally, many of these people live in regions that are not necessarily tourist hot spots. The reason they need help to begin with, is that, on a global scale, their plight tends to be ignored. In these international locations, the work of missionaries is vital to survival, but also dangerous for any individual looking to take the trip.
Fortunately, you can take steps to prepare yourself for these situations. Missionary trips to these regions have such potential for help that perceived or real danger might be worth the reward. The below 6 tips can help any missionary traveling abroad to some of the world's more challenging regions.
1) Understand the Risks Before the Trip
First, you have to understand exactly what is actually awaiting you on your mission trip. That means conducting thorough research into your destination and making yourself familiar with its nuances. It also means separating fact from fiction in learning about regions that are little known globally and might not have an extensive information infrastructure.
Especially if you are considering multiple destinations as a missionary, this step is absolutely vital. It allows you to assess each potential location, and make an informed decision based on your findings. Risks can range from natural dangers to unstable political situations. The more you know, and the earlier you know about it in the planning process, the better you can prepare yourself.
2) Ensure a Solid Support Infrastructure in Your Destination
Next, it's important to ensure that as you reach your destination, at least some type of support structure is in place for missionaries. Depending on the type of trip you take, this support structure can vary wildly.
For instance, you might work directly with a group travel agency that can provide you with the support you need. If not, you might organize your mission trip through a local church or other nonprofit organization. Other possibilities include local governments and NGOs who are looking to improve life for local residents.
What support can you expect? That question is important to answer before you book your plane tickets. It might be as simple as understanding cell phone service and important numbers to call in your location of choice. The more you know about this topic, the better.
3) Prepare for the Challenges Ahead
With information from the first two tips in hand, it's time to start your preparation efforts. The type of challenges you expect, of course, will play a large part in making sure that by the time you touch ground in your destination, you are well prepared for any potential situation.
Preparation ranges from learning the local language to packing the right clothes. The key to success here is making sure that you don't treat every mission trip as identical. Even experienced missionaries should start their planning efforts from the ground up and with their destination in mind when traveling to an area or region for the first time.
4) Build Understanding and Respect for the Culture
Another preparatory step is to get as close to the local culture as possible. No matter what challenges you will face, they will be easier to overcome if you have the support and goodwill of locals on your side. Learning the language is an important first step, but it shouldn't end there. Study the culture, including symbols and habits, and internalize it before your journey.
Most high-risk areas around the globe are still safe for anyone who clearly doesn't mean any harm and is willing to adjust to the local culture. Identifying yourself as foreign in your habits and preferences, and openly touting your own country's virtues, is not a good idea. Openly showing a willingness to understand, respect, and learn local nuances, on the other hand, will be important in accomplishing your goals and keeping yourself safe.
5) Check for Travel Advisories to Assess High Risks
Before the actual trip, it makes sense to do a final check about potential risks in the course of your journey. The U.S. State Department, for instance, puts out regular travel advisories that are important to monitor. Some of them are general in nature, but others point to acute risks that may lead you to reconsider your missionary trip.
For instance, the current situation and unrest in the Gaza Strip has made that area of the Middle East more volatile than it usually is. While good work can still be done here, it makes sense to wait until tensions have calmed down or to seek out another area where your work can be conducted in a productive and safe manner.
6) Avoid Unnecessary Risks Where Possible
Finally, you absolutely have to make sure that as you go on your mission trip, you avoid any unnecessary risks. Part of that, as mentioned above, includes learning and adjusting to the local culture. But it doesn't end there. While on your journey, stay away from especially volatile areas or events. If your personal safety interferes with your work, consider the former first. You can only help those in need and spread the Good Word if you keep yourself, and those around you, safe.
In many ways, conducting a mission in an unknown and potentially dangerous area can be immensely rewarding. But that is only the case if you can keep yourself safe. With the above tips, you can make sure that your mission trip abroad will be successful, and that you impact the lives of countless others.