One of the questions most often asked by people embarking on their first mission trip is “What should I bring?” While our varied trips take us around the globe – from Asia to Central America and Africa – there are a few necessities common to the experience no matter where you go. We surveyed some of our veteran mission travelers and compiled their top 10 tips for packing, so you can make sure you have everything in hand before you hop on that plane!
Bug spray and sunscreen. In most cases you’ll spend several hours a day outside, so you’ll want to make sure you’re protected from the elements. Purchase these little necessities in travel size so that you can pop them into your carry-on. And while we’re on the subject, pack light! Make sure you bring no more than you need and can reasonably carry.
Clothes and shoes you don’t mind getting dirty. Many of our trips involve working outside in the elements (see above), so don’t bring anything you can’t part with wardrobe-wise.
Snacks like Clif bars. Since mission trips are all about helping others, there usually isn’t much of an opportunity to make a pit stop when afternoon hunger strikes. Christina, who went on last year’s Sierra Leone trip, suggests packing some snacks like Clif bars. Just remember not to pack anything chocolate-based – you don’t want anything melting in transit!
A camera. A cheap digital camera or a disposable are compact, lightweight ways to ensure that you capture all those memories you’ll be making.
A small backpack or day pack. You can use this as your personal item on the plane. You’ll want to make sure you take a small, inexpensive bag with you to your worksite each day so that essentials like water, snacks and sunscreen are handy.
Toiletries and any medications. “This may sound obvious,” says former Guatemala team member Erin, “but let’s be honest – many of us aren’t exactly in our comfort zones when traveling for a mission trip. Forgetting deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste, or soap will only make us more uncomfortable than usual.”
A paper Bible. Many of us are so accustomed to our online reading plans or Bible apps that we forget how dependent we are on our devices. You may not be able to load them if Wi-Fi or cellular service are not easily accessible, so make sure to bring a hard copy. (Pro tip: Bring a pocket-sized version of the New Testament to cut down on bag weight!)
A journal. Many of our mission trippers have found that taking the time to reflect on their experiences while abroad allows them to better hear what God is trying to communicate. Again, disconnecting from technology often frees us up to cut through all the noise and truly plug in to His voice.
Small, easily portable games. Some of the best memories on mission trips come from spending time with your team after hours. Bringing a favorite game to share with the group can often spark conversation and help develop lasting friendships.
The attitude of a follower. Most importantly, it is crucial to remember why we are embarking on our mission trips: to show others Christ’s love.
“So often,” Erin says, “we walk into a situation, make an assessment, decide what the right move is, and act on it. We may be confident that our idea is a good one, maybe even the best possible choice for the situation. We may even be gifted leaders in our own lives – in our jobs, communities, and dinner groups. What we sometimes neglect to remember is that we are not in these situations every day. We are not normally part of the culture we find ourselves in for this one week.
“We are guests and partners, willing to serve where and how we are asked. When we insist that our way is best, we communicate to our partners that they don’t really know what they’re doing. This type of attitude can have an impact on the relationships we are building and the work we are doing. Instead, seeking to follow first builds humility and patience, and it communicates respect and trust.”
To learn more about Hoboken Grace’s mission trips, click here.