The most important thing you can do to prepare for your mission trip is to work with Margaret Merritt in Charleston, SC and Amanda Scott, Field Volunteer Coordinator in Honduras!
As you prepare, here are some things to consider:
- Purpose of the trip – It is important that the entire team buy into the same vision for the trip. The team should have an idea about the “project” they will work on, whether it is already well defined (a medical brigade) or generally defined (construction project, evangelism, etc.)
- Project Goals – North Americans tend to be very goal oriented. They want to achieve a sense of accomplishment, of having completed something. This may or may not be in line with the project needed by LAMB. They may be contributing to a larger project. Each team picks up where the previous team left off, and the next team will pick up where your team left off. The more important goals may be things like building relationships, modeling Christ’s love, and spreading the Gospel. Success in Honduras is measured more by how people work together and the working relationships rather than our efficiency and productivity. We are in Honduras to serve, not to get them to conform to our standards!
- Who’s in charge – It is crucial that the lines of authority are clear to all involved. The team should defer to the Hondurans who understand what works and what doesn’t. This is an outstanding opportunity for North Americans to practice humility.
- In country conditions – Make sure the team understands what the living and working conditions will be. Sometimes there is only cold water (or no water!) or no electricity. Bathrooms can be an experience! Food is delicious but different!
- Communication – North Americans are so dependent on their technology! Often the international plans on phones from the U.S. do not work in Honduras. We suggest encouraging team members to “go dark” and leave their cell phones and laptops off while they are in Honduras. Internet may not be available at all and, when available, can go down at any time! Family members back home should understand that “no news is good news!” The team leader will have a Honduran phone with international service to use in case of emergencies.
- Relationships – The more you can develop relationships before the trip, the better. Working together on team fundraisers is a great way to build team spirit, break barriers, and create mutual respect. If in person meetings and events aren’t possible for everyone, try to arrange video meetings via Skype or another medium.
- Spiritual tone -- Consider a group book study or devotional series to do together. Even if people can’t gather in person, they can share the same book or devotions and share thoughts via phone or email. Before You Pack Your Bag, Prepare Your Heart is an example of one that has received good reviews.
- Prayer partners – Encourage each member to have a prayer partner back home. It is particularly touching for the team leader to secretly collect cards and notes from prayer partners, family members, and friends to pass out to each team member in the middle of the trip or after a particularly hard day.
- Devotional time – The daily agenda should include devotional and worship time. This is also a time for the group to process and discuss their experiences, feelings, fears, etc. This is often a time when people realize they have had an encounter with the Divine! Important insights, epiphanies, and revelations occur during group time. Youth are often more likely to open up in a group of 4 or 5 than in a group of 15 or 20. Organize the sessions so multiple people have an opportunity to participate. Build prayer into the week! We have a rule that the person who prays gets to eat first! Once the hard work starts, people vie for the honor of praying!
- Coordinate with Amanda Scott (in country) and Margaret Merritt (in U.S.) – You will be planning the trip with the in country staff who can advise you on the conditions, security, and project. Be sure to let them know as soon as possible about any medical, dietary or physical needs. Margaret Merritt will give you a packet with much more information as well as the required forms to fill out.
- What to pack – The most important thing to pack is a servant’s heart! The team is there to serve, to work WITH the Hondurans, not do things TO them. Otherwise, take just the essentials and leave room to bring beautiful Central American crafts home!
- Staying healthy – Check the CDC site for recommendations which will vary based where the team will be. Note: malaria isn’t an issue in Tegucigalpa area! Up to date tetanus shots are a must. Remind team members that the animals (mostly dogs) have not had any shots! Don’t touch! Other required vaccines are listed in the team packet that all team members will receive.
- Safety equipment – Sunglasses, Sunscreen, Bug Spray, Long Pants, Hats, Closed Toe Shoes, etc. These items don’t seem like “safety” equipment but they are very important to protect members from the sun, heavy or flying objects on construction projects, and bugs.