How to Ruin a Short Term Missions Trip

Apartments in Burma 

If you have ever gone on a short term missions trip, have ever wanted to go on a short term missions trip, know someone who wants to go on a short term missions trip, then this post is for you!

Today I am going to tell you how you can spoil and ruin your short term missions trip.

First off, I have read articles debating and stating that short term missions trips are pretty worthless in the long run. I don't agree with that at all but I can see why they post that. If you go with the wrong mentality you can definitely ruin the time on a mission field.

I think mission trips are more for encouraging the missionaries than they are for making a super long term impact on a country. I think the lasting changes come from the missionaries who sow, plant and water day in and day out. I also think that building a house or doing a project is beneficial too, but when you leave, it will be the missionary that will follow up with them.

I'm here today to share with you how you can absolutely ruin a missions trip for a missionary. Also, please note that not one missionary I have ever visited told me to write any of this. They have no idea I'm writing this. These are simply my observations from missions in general and from living abroad.

Let's get to it. How to ruin a missions trip:

1. Eating the Missionaries American Snacks

Don't you even think about opening up their pantry and cracking open their precious American foods and snacks. I know that when you visit another country the local food will look and taste different to you than your American food but, for the love of food, don't eat their American snacks. If they have American snacks, let's say, Pop Tarts for example, they probably paid $8-$10 for that box. If they are living in a 3rd world country those $8-$10 Pop Tarts probably meant that the missionary not only paid that ridiculous amount of money for them but they also hauled them in a suitcase to get them in there. I know because I was a sucker for Pop Tarts while we lived in Asia. And no, no one ate our Pop Tarts either. I'm just using this as an example. Bottom line though, just don't eat their American snacks!

What I would recommend doing, before you even go to visit that missionary, e-mail them and say, "I plan on bringing you $25 worth of American snacks. What would you like?" Then, bring those snacks and don't eat them. I'm forever grateful for family and friends who brought Parmesan Cheese and Resees Peanut Butter Cereal. (I will eat a bowl of that cereal after I finish this post.) And also, I can never spell that cereal correctly. Please send grammatical and spelling help (Amanda, I'm talking to you!).

If you are hungry, ask for some food that you know is easily available in that country. After living in Asia it would be great to say, "Hey, is it okay if I have some leftover rice?"

Speaking of food .....

2. Complaining about the Local Food

I am sure the host missionary would love to hear you complain about how you don't want to eat rice for two weeks. Try living there for a lifetime in a land of rice, or beans, or whatever the local food is. Whatever is served to you, be thankful and do your best to eat it. If you absolutely can not eat something, sneak it onto your husbands plate do your best to eat what you can and leave the rest. Just don't complain about it. In a lot of countries it is okay to tell a local you absolutely could not eat something. I very politely told my friends in Asia that I just could not eat intestine soup. I thanked them but very very politely declined. They were not upset and neither were my bowels that night ... but Dave's were because I asked him to eat it for me. #husbandoftheyear

3. Sharing Every Moment of Your Trip on Social Media

Missionaries don't often get visitors and when they do, they want to see you. They want to hear about things going on at home. They want to hear what God is teaching you. They want face time. Real face to face time. One of the worst things you can do to a missionary is to take a million pictures and then post it all over social media. That missionary will have about two weeks with someone, you, from their country. When you leave they don't always have someone to relate to. At the end of those two weeks you will go home to your comfort zone but the missionary doesn't get that. Use every spare moment to encourage that missionary. If you absolutely can not refrain from social media do it only after your host missionary has gone to bed.

I once heard a horror story of a group that would lounge inside while on their phones. Then, they would run outside, play with the kids for a few minutes, snap pictures of it and then run back in and post it on social media. That is not a missions trip. That is a big fat fake expensive lie.

Before leaving town, I would just post on your accounts, that in order to maximize your time and be the biggest encouragement you can be while abroad, you won't be posting on social media until you get back. People will totally understand that.

4. Not Leaving Grocery Money

Imagine having 4-8+ guests come to your house for two weeks and you had to provide all meals for them. Just do the math for a quick second and see how that would fit into your budget. It's expensive! When you leave the missionaries house to go home I would recommend writing a thank you note and putting some cash in there for groceries. If you offer them the money personally they won't take it. Every missionary I have stayed with has been so generous and does not want money, which is why you just have to leave it on their table when you fly home.

5. Complaining about the Weather

I rolled my eyes as I typed number 5. Just don't complain about the weather. The missionary does indeed realize it is either super hot and humid or super frigid and icy in their country. They live their day in and day out. What you can do when you get hot and want to complain is say something along these lines to your missionary friend: "I have noticed that the weather is really hot here and I just want to say how grateful I am that you, day in and out, serve Jesus in the weather. I think God will bless you for that." If someone would have said that to me in Burma I would have bursted into tears.

6. Act Like The Locals are Weird

I totally understand that when you visit a new country everything will be different. However, while living abroad I learned that I was the weird one! To me, it was super weird to wear a longi skirt that I couldn't walk in. I even thought the locals were weird for wearing it. However, when I wore one of those things and had to hike it up just to walk, while all the locals looked on and laughed, I soon realized I was the odd one. I never did wear that skirt again either. I just couldn't figure it out.

Be gracious to people. Understand that you both are from different cultures and be sensitive about that.

7. By Not Smiling

I have learned, that when traveling or living abroad, smiling goes a long long way. Every language can understand a smile. If you are trying to communicate with a local and just can't figure it out, rest assured, a smile will help you out a lot. In Burma, I had a lady start kissing my arm all over because she was mesmerized by my white skin, and although I was horrified inside, I just kept smiling until I could get myself out of the situation. And no, my husband did not help me as he thought the entire ordeal was hilarious.

8. By Not Going with a Servant's Heart

When you go on a missions trip, go with the mentality that you are there to serve. You are there to serve the local missionary in whatever way, fashion or form you can. You are there to serve the locals and be a blessing to them.

If you go with a 'serve me' kind of attitude you will spoil your trip.

And that, my friends, is how you can ruin a missions trip! As you can probably tell, I'm a little passionate about all of this. But what I am more passionate about is encouraging missionaries and if this post will help someone have a better missions trip to bless a missionary, than I'm all about that!

What are some other ways you can think of to ruin a missions trip?

What are some ways that you can think of that would be a blessing to a missionary on the field when you visit?

And now I am off to eat that bowl of cereal....


  1. I can see how it would be a temptation to post about your trip on social media, especially for the middle school/high school age and if you were stateside. When we were in Nicaragua, we didn't have the ability to send calls or get on the internet when we were in the village, so we didn't even BRING our cell phones out! It was actually really nice. I hadn't thought about bringing American snacks, but I'm sure missionaries appreciate that and think it's fun!

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