How Mission Trips Contribute to Development

We recently updated our team training manual, which mission teams study before they go on trips with Food for the Hungry (FH).

The manual answers questions like, “What can I expect on a mission trip?” and “What should I pack?” We also go much deeper with answers to questions like, “What causes poverty?” and “How can I help without hurting?”

Re-reading the manual has reminded me of the importance of mission trips in the work of FH. It’s not just about the physical project that a team completes. Instead, the project is a vehicle to build relationships and move along the community development process.

Hands-on, practical ministry can be a critical tool in developing relationships.

Here’s an excerpt from our team training materials.

You might be wondering what your team project has to do with the highly relational way that FH engages in the community. Building a relationship in a vacuum can be a challenge. Walking up to a stranger and making conversation is difficult enough in our own culture, let alone in a community in a foreign country. This is where hands-on, practical ministry can become a critical tool in developing relationships.

The project location or ministry activity provides a safe place for team members to build relationships with the community. As the community watches the team engage in activities and projects that they are passionate about, they will begin to approach the team in a desire to connect. Working side-by-side with the community helps to level the playing field and allows team members and the community to feel more comfortable together. The project doesn’t exist solely to meet the need in the community, but also to provide a venue for relationships to grow and develop.

The project must be a priority that the community leaders and FH staff have agreed to address. The leaders need to find ways for the community to contribute towards the project, whether through providing funds, labor or land. Your team’s project donation is supplemental to these contributions from the community members. The more the community puts toward the project, the more ownership they have over the process. There also must be a maintenance plan to ensure that the project is sustainable.

For anyone going on a short-term mission trip, I recommend this point of view.  Look at your physical project as a way to build relationships. Then embrace those relationships as opportunities for God to transform minds and hearts.

God is using mission trips to transform communities all around the world. Ready to find out how? Request more information on our mission trip page.


About Wendy McMahan

Wendy McMahan is grateful for her front row seat in watching God “reconcile all things to Himself.” (Colossians 1:20) She still can’t believe that she gets to participate in His story every day. Wendy and her husband are proud parents to two daughters and have been foster parents to children of all ages. Wendy serves as Director of Church Engagement at Food for the Hungry. She hosts the Poverty Unlocked podcast.

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