So, last month I took a mission trip to Chancay, Peru for a week. (Check out my post about going to Peru here.) I was super excited but also very aware that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I attended the training sessions and packed my bags, ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime. Here is what I learned!
1. Sometimes God calls you to do things you are not gifted at.
I learned this right off the bat in Peru. We were working with a local church to disciple the believers there. We taught them how to share the Gospel, disciple others, and hold a Bible study. Then, we went out and did those things. Now, I am typically on the quiet side and take my time in developing relationships. When you have a week to disciple a dozen people, time is not a resource that you have. Evangelism is also not a gift of mine. I am more of a teacher. But, I learned that doing things you are really bad at on your own gives God a lot of room to move and do incredible things. The people we worked with learned so quickly, and people were so receptive to hearing the Gospel. Anywhere from one to five people that we met were saved every day! It definitely was not because of anything I did. That was all God.
2. Mission trips are emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically demanding.
What do you say when the man you are witnessing to has a son that has unjustly been put in prison? How do you break up a fight between one of the believers and a man you are witnessing to when you have no idea what they’re saying? How do you sleep when you have to have the windows open and outside there are dog and rooster fights? On every mission trip, there are questions like this that you really just can’t prepare for in advance. That is okay, but it doesn’t make it easy to deal with. I was hit particularly hard by the physical aspect of the trip. With all of the animals running around at night and being forced to fight each other, I got a few hours of sleep a night. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time being really exhausted, which affected me emotionally a lot. Just know that this kind of stuff happens, and it’s okay. It’s also okay to count down the number of nights you have left before you get to go back home- where dog and rooster fights are illegal.
3. Drink way more water than you think you need to drink.
I ended up really dehydrated on the fourth day of our trip. We spent most of every day outside walking around, so I should drank way more than I did per day. (Bathrooms can be in short supply in Peru, and I did not want to have to try to find one!) But, the dehydration combined with the lack of sleep did a number on me, and I ended having a complete breakdown on my friend, Meg. Thankfully she recognized that I was dehydrated and made sure I drank enough water after that.
4. Stick with your translators.
Most people are probably going to look at this and say, “Well duh!” But, I speak pretty good Spanish, and I think most of the people on my trip- including the translators- thought I spoke really good Spanish. This led to some awkward situations. My group’s translator needed to take multiple phone calls during the day. He felt totally fine with leaving my partner and I to fend for ourselves, because I speak Spanish. Most of the time, this was fine. Sometimes it didn’t quite work out. Like the time one of our group members got in a very heated argument with a new believer. Or the time we were in a car with only Spanish speakers. I couldn’t understand them, and they were getting frustrated, so I just started saying, “Si, si” and hoped it would all be fine. Thankfully, they just wanted to take us on a tour of the plaza. So, stick with your translators.
5. Take pictures during your mission trip.
You’re never going to remember the trip as well as you think you will. So take lots of photos to share with your friends and family. Enough said.
6. Build relationships knowing that you leave at the end of the week.
I met so many wonderful people during my week in Peru. Our translators, the church members, the people we got to witness to and disciple. I won’t ever forget that. When you’re on a mission trip, regardless of how long or short it is, these people become family. It’s weird to think of going back to a life without them. But, you do, and it does hurt. Briefly, I even wished that I hadn’t built any new friendships at all. However, it was worth it, and I know that, if I don’t see my friends again here, we will meet up in heaven and drink chicha together there. So, build those relationships anyway.
7. Don’t be afraid to change plans.
In Peru, the style of living is very different than in the United States. Time is a pretty fluid concept. I don’t think I saw a single clock while I was in the country. We made appointments to meet up with people every day, and I can probably count on one hand the number of appointments we made on time. But, no one cared. Our plans changed on an hour by hour basis, and most things worked themselves out. This is definitely a lesson I wanted to bring back to the time-bound United States. Schedules are guidelines not laws. When plans change, go with the flow.
8. Bring random “comfort” things. Like a fan.
Research the area you are going to and make sure to bring what you feel like you need. Not what a list or Pinterest or your group says. Well, definitely listen to them. But, also listen to yourself. I should have brought a fan. Most countries outside of the United States do not have air conditioning. I was told that I would be cold at night. I was not. A small portable fan would have made all of the difference in the world.
9. When God plants seeds, you may not see the fruit for a long time.
I knew that going on this trip would create growth in my life, but I’m still not totally sure how. I learned so much about myself, God, and people, but I haven’t seen a noticeable, drastic difference in myself since I came home. But, then God impressed upon me that growth, like plants, take time. I can’t wait to see what springs up!
I hope you enjoyed this post of mine and that, if you are going on a mission trip anytime soon, it helps prepare you for it! If you want a post with more specific details or photos of my mission trip, let me know in the comments!! Have you been on a mission trip before? What did you learn?