You've made the decision: you want to translate your faith and desire to do good into an actual effort of helping those who need it most. In other words, you want to go on a mission trip.
Making that decision is undoubtedly crucial. Once you commit yourself to the idea, you can move mountains with it. At the same time, your mission can only be successful if you also know where to go from here.
Would your talents be most helpful domestically or abroad? How long do you plan on going, and are you going alone or in a group? All of these questions are important considerations when finding the right destination for your mission trip.
1) How Long Will You Go?
Obviously, this will be an important question to answer for yourself. Mission trips can range from a few days to multiple years, depending on your commitment and availability. How long you are willing and able to go will play a crucial part in your decision making.
Longer mission trips lend themselves to foreign destinations, sometimes even around the globe. Shorter trips, on the other hand, are ideal for domestic urban centers and disaster recovery efforts.
2) What Funds Do You Have?
Cost is another major factor in choosing your destination. Naturally, more funds will enable you to not just take a longer trip, but also move further abroad with longer flights and lodging.
A number of variables do complicate the answer to this questions. For instance: you can fundraise for your trip in advance to enable you to be more flexible in your destination. Some hosting organization also offer free lodging and food for missionaries. Still, your available funds will matter as you decide on what location works best for you.
3) Are You Comfortable Going Abroad?
You absolutely have to answer this question for yourself before deciding where to go. Going abroad, particularly to crisis regions around the world, is a commitment that is not for everyone. From living conditions to the daily situations you encounter, these trips can be rewarding—but also difficult.
Fortunately, plenty of missionary work is available for those looking to stay within their own country. Be honest with yourself, knowing that regardless of whether you go abroad or stay at home, you will find valuable ways to help others.
4) Do You Have Any Existing Connections?
You might know others who have gone on mission trips before you. Or you may know someone currently working at the organization you're looking to help. Either way, your existing connections can and should play a role in where you plan to go.
Of course, whether or not you already have these connections can influence your decision both ways. You may choose to deliberately start at a location and organization where you know nobody in order to focus the entirety of your efforts on helping others. Either way, the answer to this question can help you make that decision.
5) What Are Your Most Valuable Skills?
How would you most be able to contribute to those who need the most help? Are you able to provide the physical, hands-on skills necessary to help rebuild a community after a disaster? Or are you better suited to cook community meals? Do you love talking to people about the good word, or are you more technologically inclined?
Every missionary has skills that make them valuable in their work. Some are tangible, such as carpentry, while others are more subtle. If you understand where your strengths lie, you can use that information to guide you in finding a location and purpose that matches your skills.
6) What About the Community?
Independent of whether you plan to go abroad or stay domestic, the type of community you wish to join also matters. An urban focus will result in a very different potential destination than a rural area needing help or waiting to hear about the good word.
Of course, you might not have a preference on this. But if you do, it makes sense to consider it early in the process. Working with the homeless in a major city is simply a very different experience than building homes in rural Haiti.
7) What Experiences Are You Looking For?
Finally, the experiences you look to make should also play into your decision-making process. Will you devote 100 percent of your time to missionary work, or are you looking to explore a new area of the world you have never been to?
Make no mistake: as a missionary, your first focus will and should be to help others. At the same time, staying motivated and productive should include taking care of yourself, as well. That's why considering your own experience makes sense in deciding where you want to go for your trip.
Deciding to go on a mission trip is only the first in a series of decisions you will need to make. Once you know you want to go, choosing your destination should come next. If you're strategic in that process, you can make sure that you make unforgettable experiences while maximizing your skill set and doing great work.
One step that is not discussed above, but that is still important: make sure you know what your available locations are. It helps to book the trip through an external service, so that you know what your options are. If you want to make the most of your mission trip, you should be absolutely sure about your location before moving ahead in the planning process.