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.

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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7 Signs You're From the 732

Only the best part of New Jersey.

If you're from New Jersey, you know how badly the state's looked down upon by outsiders (thanks a lot, Jersey Shore). But you know that all of those false accusations aren't true- the Garden State is your home and only you're allowed to make fun of it. Although Jersey's small, there are different regions and everyone thinks that their's is the best. Here are seven signs you're from the 732, AKA the best part of Jersey:

1. You know that Central Jersey is a place.

One of the biggest arguments is whether or not Central Jersey exists. I live in the middle of New Jersey, so it's pretty funny when people say it's not a real place. I'm not from South Jersey, and definitely not from North Jersey. Also, it's close to both Philadelphia and New York, not just one or the other. Perfect location.

2. Everywhere you go, you see a Wawa.

Legit everywhere, and you go there 24/7. All hail the holy grail.

3. Surf Taco means a lot to you.

Every time I come home from being away at school the first place I go to eat with my friends is Surf Taco. Even when I am home, Surf Taco's always on my mind. Who doesn't love a good taco with chips? P.S. I highly recommend their Teriyaki Chicken Taco, you won't regret it.

4. You go to all the summer concerts.

There's really nothing more fun than summer shows outside, and you already know that PNC Bank Arts Center and Stone Pony Summer Stage are the hot-spots. 'Tis the season of tailgating and enjoying a good show with your friends.

5. Two words: Pork. Roll.

I don't care what Chris Christie has to say, it's pork roll. Quite honestly, Taylor Ham just doesn't sound right. And what's better than a pork roll egg n' cheese on your favorite bagel? Nothing.

6. You live close to the beach...

Spring Lake, Manasquan, Asbury, you name it. You know these areas and where all of the good food spots are in each of them. Living so close to the beach makes for the perfect summers, but with summer comes the bennies.

7. ...So you can easily spot a benny.

If you're from Jersey and you don't know what a benny is, you most likely are one. Bennies usually come in packs; they bring lawn chairs and tents to the beach, wear socks and sandals, and have the "Jersey accent" because they're either from New York or close to.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia commons

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5 Things To Do In Huntsville, AL

Huntsville is one of the best hidden gems of Alabama.


For the first part of my childhood, I grew up in a little town thirty minutes outside of Huntsville. Going into the city on occasion was so exciting. Towards my teenage years, we moved right into the heart of Huntsville and my adolescent endeavors couldn't get enough of all there was to find in it. Huntsville is a booming engineer town that has fostered multiple thriving communities of happy people. It's a place for everyone. It's ideal for young families with at least one engineer within the household, but the job market in Huntsville has a spot for any degree or diploma. Huntsville has plenty of date locations, hangouts for teens, and a plethora of entertainment for little ones.

1. Downtown Huntsville

Downtown Huntsville has been built up QUITE A BIT in the last few years. Historical Huntsville has leaped into the 21st century. It has plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs for the bar crawlers and rambunctious crowds. Note: The Furniture Factory is not a cute little place like Ashley Furniture Home Store to take your kids to on a Friday or Saturday evening. Don't fret, Big Spring Park is also nestled in Downtown Huntsville. Big Spring Park is family friendly at all hours of the day. It's got vending machines that dispense a handful of pellets to feed to the koi fish and ducks for only $0.25. There is also plenty of trees to hang a hammock on and lots of scenery to help you take a moment and just relax and be still.

2. The Space and Rocket Center 

Replica of the Saturn V

The Space and Rocket Center is the thing that puts Huntsville on the map. It's called "Rocket City" for a reason. The Huntsville Space and Rocket center offers Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, and lots of other activity sort of things for the kiddos. It also houses the real Saturn V rocket (the real one is inside a building, not pictured). I went to two proms that were hosted underneath the real Saturn V. If you're not terribly interested in aerospace, they do put on fireworks shows sometimes and offer tickets to see movies in their huge IMAX theatre.

3. Lowe Mill 

Myself (right) and my friend Jordan (left) adding our pages to the "bed of dreams".

Lowe Mill is an old factory that has been transformed into a swanky art exhibit. There are two floors. The first floor has a vegan friendly restaurant called Happy Tummy and multiple art studios with windows, so you can walk by and marvel at an array of artists' creations. If an artist is currently in their studio, feel free to step in and chat or even purchase something they've created. The second floor has a couple of shops, like a vintage clothing store, two giant swings, and "the bed of dreams". The bed of dreams is an interactive art that is essentially a box spring hung up on the wall with a basket of pages torn from books sitting next to it. People who walk by can write down a dream or a goal on a book page from the basket and then place it on the bed of dreams.

4. Golf Galore 

The Ledges of Huntsville, Valley Hill Country Club, and Robert Trent Jones golf courses are all spread out across Huntsville. The Ledges is a little more swanky than the rest, so you'd have to know someone to get up there. Nonetheless Huntsville is really big into golfing. If you don't have your own set of clubs, don't worry. Huntsville has a recently built TopGolf that provides the clubs, games, and driving range so you don't have to.

 5. Piper and Leaf Tea Company 

Pictured: Signature Piper and Leaf Mason Jar filled with the summer blend, Sweet Dixie

Piper and Leaf started around the Huntsville area and just about every person living there can't get enough of it. Everything they do is natural and full of love and hardwork. They have a shop connected to Lowe Mill and a strong station in Madison, Alabama where they sell tea by the glass. You can also purchase loose leaf tea and tea infusers to brew at home. They have a website you can order all of this from as well (thank goodness). Personally, this is the number one thing that I get a hankering for that I can't get here in Mississippi.

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