11 Things That I Learned On My 10 Day Mission Trips

11 Things That I Learned On My 10 Day Mission Trips

How to make your short-term mission trip more meaningful and beneficial.
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My heart skips a beat and my mind floods with amazing memories when someone brings up mission trips. Through my Christian school and my church I have had opportunities to travel on mission trips over the past five years all across the world to places like Greece, Mexico, China, and even places within the United States like Florida, South Carolina, and the inner city of my hometown: Atlanta! I've had opportunities to work with refugees, orphans, and poverty-stricken people.

If you've stumbled across this article, you've probably also crossed many articles and pages titled: "Why I Hate Short Term Mission Trips" or "Why Christian Mission Trips Don't Actually Help."

Don't get me wrong, these writers have every right to speak their heart and mind as I do and I do find some of their points to be very convincing, true, and enlightening. However, as an expert in the field of 10 day mission trips, I feel like I've got some room to elaborate on what these mission trips can be and really are about. I believe that mission trips can be great and they can be so much more than we generation Y Christians are making them out to be. We have the opportunity to make these trips helpful, meaningful, and sustainable. These are 11 things that I've learned that will make your mission trip more meaningful, more helpful to the community, and less destructive to their society. So, keep them in the back of your mind as you travel on these trips.



1. Remember, you don't have to fly 3,000 miles to adequately serve the poor.

While I have thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from my missions in China and Greece, I have also had countless opportunities to serve at the local soup kitchen or tutor at a public elementary school that is located 10 minutes down the road. Poverty is everywhere and there is always something that you can do to help.



2. Don't shove your beliefs in someone's face without understanding theirs.

On my mission in Greece, my team was able to work with Middle Eastern refugees, most whom were Muslim. At our refugee center, we would hold bible studies and teach them the Christian faith. It wasn't until someone asked me, "Why is Jesus right?" that I stopped for a minute and realized just what I was doing. I asked myself, "Really, why is Jesus right?" As soon as I got home, I went out and bought my very own copy of the Quran. While trips with a main goal to evangelize are amazing, consider this before you try and change someone's tradition, someone's beliefs, and someone's mind to fit your own way of life.



3. Handouts create dependency.

If your activities on a mission trip include painting a school mural or handing out bags with a day's supply of food in them, you're not doing much to help the community that you are trying to serve. The best thing that you could do for the community, if you're painting a wall or digging a well, would be to invite the community to work with you. Doing work that they can do for themselves or providing food for the week that you are there will only create dependency within the community. It will do more harm than good to their society. Remember that in simple tasks, you should work with them, not for them. Teach them how their society can improve without the weekly mission teams doing the work for them.



4. You don't have all of the answers.

Don't come rolling into someone else's town with intentions to serve them with an ignorant mind. Be open minded towards the culture and the ways of the people in the community, but also toward your teammates and leaders. The community will know in which ways they need the most help and, as a team, you can figure out how to best serve them. However, don't go in trying to solve poverty or build a house all on your own!


5. Orphans need parents.

I didn't really understand this until my trip this June to Beijing, China, where we worked with special needs orphans. I fell in love with so many of the kids there. They were so sweet and beautiful and we loved every second of playing with them, but it ripped out my heart to leave them and feel like I was one more person in their life who was abandoning them. Orphans don't need to be made empty promises or be let down one more time, they need parents and they need consistency. The best thing that you can do for orphans worldwide, if you are not in the place to adopt, is to share their information with someone who can or to sponsor them. There are millions of children worldwide who are able to be sponsored, so go ahead and give $30, cover their food bill for a month, or try and sponsor them for a year or until they are adopted.

A great place to start is with the orphans I love in China.


6. Bibles don't feed people.

Whether you realize it or not, a lot of places that we go on mission to are predominately Christian countries. In my case, I've worked mostly with Muslim refugees and in communist China, so I do understand that some places are not Christian. However, a lot of places are Christian and they are just poor. The people in a lot of these communities need homes, food, wells, etc. and giving them a bag of food with a Bible tucked in doesn't really help them in the long run.


7. Take pictures, but don't use your camera as a crutch.

I consider myself an amateur photographer and my camera is one of my most prized possessions. So, of course, my camera comes with me on every trip that I go on, whether it's 10 miles or 10,000 miles away. I have captured some great moments on photo and video but there have also been some moments that I missed because I was behind the camera and not really in the moment. Remember that you will want your pictures one day, but that it's OK to put your camera away because you will want the memories too.


8. Know that the trip is not about you.

You'll find that your experience on your mission trip will be 100 times better if you go into the trip knowing that your only goal is to serve your neighbor. Whether its your team member or the community that you are within, love and serve them. I like to say and wholeheartedly believe that "the highest possible thing that we can pursue is to be a servant of the Lord." So, keep in mind that the trip isn't about how much fun you have, how many friends you make, or how many pictures you're in. Instead, it's about completely giving your body and heart to the community that you came to serve. Truth be told, when you have that mindset, your trip will be better than you can ever imagine.


9. Invest in your team and invest in the community.

I can honestly say that my mission trips would not be the same if I didn't invest in my team members before, during, and after the trip. Mission trip friends can become friends for life, there is truly nothing like traveling across the world and serving with someone. My trip to China especially showed me that pouring into your team members will affect you in tremendous ways, in some ways even more than it impacts them. Also, don't forget to get to know the people who you are serving. The cover photo above is a photo of me with seven children who's names I don't remember. I didn't take the time to invest in the community of General Cepeda and it really took away from my experience in Mexico. However, on my trip to China, I learned every kid's name and spent time getting to know them. Thanks to this, my experience was infinitely better, in the sense of community. Make your trip one to remember by pouring into the community and getting to know and remember them.


10. Continue to give after you go.

Take it from me, funding mission trips is not the easiest thing to do, especially when they are halfway across the world. My trips to China and Greece cost about $3,000 each, for four years in a row. Don't raise all of that money for two weeks and then give nothing to that community until you go back. As stated above, there are so may ways to get involved with sponsoring children, families, and orphanages. Missionaries and shelters always accept donations. Really try to give yourself to the community, even when you can't be physically present with them.


11. Don't come back the same person who you were when you left.

My trip leader to China told us before we even left, "It would be a shame to travel 8,000 miles and to not come back changed." Don't be afraid to let the trip change you in radical ways, something that serving others can do. Whether its the mission, your teammates and friendships, or the culture, allow it to change you and to send you home a better and different person than when you arrived there.

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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It's A Small World After All

A Floridian's Guide to an Ultimate Disney World Experience

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Growing up an hour away from Cinderella's Castle, I have had my eyes set on a Disney vacation for as long as I can remember. I would see all of my neighbors and friends come back from the theme park with Mickey ears and ice-cream sandwiches every summer while I either went to visit my family in India or enjoyed a staycation.

After a long wait, I was finally able to convince my family to go on a trip to Orlando's Disney World as Florida residents. With cheaper tickets comes its pros and cons, but at the end of the day, there are 5 ways that can ensure a magical stay at Mickey's Home.

When my family and I went to Disney, I only remembered standing in lines that were hours and hours long until my legs were waiting for relief. Only after we left the park had I known about the concept of a FastPass. The FastPass allows an individual to be in a shorter line for a specific attraction or ride at the park. The other catch: you need to get three and use them BEFORE adding more passes! However, my advice is to choose wisely and ahead of time so you can have more fun at the park. The most popular rides usually don't have passes available, but if you try to buy them a few weeks before your trip, you could be lucky!

FastPasses

When my family and I went to Disney, I only remembered standing in lines that were hours and hours long until my legs were wailing for relief. Only after we left the park had I known about the concept of a FastPass. The FastPass allows an individual to be in a shorter line for a specific attraction or ride at the park. The other catch: you need to get three and use them BEFORE adding more passes! However, my advice is to choose wisely and ahead of time so you can have more fun at the park. The most popular rides usually don't have passes available, but if you try to buy them a few weeks before your trip, you could be lucky!

2. MyDisney Experience

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As soon as the tram lets you into the park, you enter a crowd that is excited, confused and energetic in the most magical place on Earth. Do you have questions or want to have the day planned for you? Save time with the MyDisney Experience App found in the App Store. The MyDisney App connects your ticket to the app to give you real-life wait times at all attractions, a list of showtimes and the best places to dine or take some nice pictures!

3. Bring Food/Water

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As a vegetarian, finding restaurants with proper meals for a reasonable price was rather difficult, impossible even in some of the parks. If you are a picky eater or have dietary restrictions, bring homemade food to match your palette. The Disney staff respects these decisions and will not mind as long as you show your bag like everyone else in the security line! If you pack some refreshing bottles of water or Gatorade, you're all set for the day!

4. Skip the Parade at Magic Kingdom

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Magic Kingdom is the face of Disney World on an international level, so it makes sense that this will be the park with the most crowd and greatest entertainment. Magic Kingdom has a 15-minute parade at 3:00 every day. The parade features all of your favorite princesses, Mickey and Minnie and even Alice in Wonderland! In the sweltering heat of summer, I spent too much time waiting for the parade to start that I got exhausted physically and mentally. For families with little kids, the wait was not worth it. If you want to make the most of Magic Kingdom, don't wait for the parade.

5. Extra Magic Hours

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The best way to have an ultimate Disney Experience is to go relish your favorite attractions during Extra Magic Hours. Extra Magic Hours, part of Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, allow resort guests to enter the park one hour earlier. The perks of staying at a Walt Disney Resort include shorter wait times and more time to take pictures before the rest of the crowd floods inside!

Every trip to Disney World is magical, exhausting and unforgettable. With these tips from a Floridian and true Disney fan, you are guaranteed to have the time of your life and live happily ever after!

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