Things to bring on a mission trip
Going on a international mission trip can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of your life, but preparation can make the difference between a great experience and a nightmare. Every country is different and the situation within a country will also vary significantly. If the mission trip you are going on is sponsored by an agency that operates multiple mission trips during the year they should have a specific list of items you will want to bring as well as what you need to do to prepare for the trip. Here is my general list of the 30 most important things to bring or prepare before going on a mission trip.
- Passport – Okay I thought I’d start with the obvious but you would be surprised how many people get ready for a mission trip out of the United States and don’t think about a passport. One thing people don’t realize is how long it takes to get a passport. Normal service is 4-6 weeks and expedited, which costs $60 more takes 3 weeks. You can also drive or fly to Washington DC and get one in 24 hours. I know of one person who totally forgot about her passport and ended up taking this route. Here is the link to more information on getting a passport. Even if you have one, check and see that you know where it is and that it is still valid at least 6 weeks ahead of time. You don’t want any last minute surprises with your passport.
- Clothes – Make sure they are appropriate for what you will be doing, for the temperature and for modesty. Find out if you are going to be attending a church service because you will want to dress up for the service. Contemporary casual is not nearly as popular in most other countries.
- Shoes – I recommend sneakers or other shoes that cover your entire foot. Don’t bring new ones, especially if you are going to be standing or walking most of the day. Something that is comfortable will be very important.
- Vaccinations – You’ll want to make sure you are properly vaccinated for any diseases or infections in the country you are traveling in. Luckily the CDC provides a quick easy way for you to make sure you are getting the right vaccinations. Just click here and enter your country and that you are going on a mission trip. It will provide you with a list that you can take to your doctor. Don’t wait to the last minute. Some shots take time before they are effective.
- Bring something for diarrhea. Contaminated food and water are the two biggest threats to your trip. First be careful what you eat and drink. Even bottled water can be contaminated in some countries. Over the counter prescriptions include: Imodium, Pepto-Bismol, and Kaopectate.
- Personal items including shampoo, soap, tooth paste, tooth brush, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Females should bring feminine hygiene products since what is available varies from country to country. Buy TSA approved sizes, put them in a plastic bag and put it toward the top so you can get it out easily if requested.
- Personal medications. Keep them in original bottles and check with the country you are going to about any restrictions. You don’t want to spend the night in the local jail for drug dealing!
- Sunscreen preferably in a spray bottle.
- Bug spray with Deet or Mosquito Repellant Wipes.
- Benadryl or a good antihistamine
- When you are at the doctors ask for a prescription of Cipro. Friends who are doctors and go on mission trips say they would not leave home without it.
- Money belt that you can wear underneath your cloths that can also carry your credit card and passport. Unfortunately some people love to see tourists loaded down with purses, cell phones, iPads and cameras. Best to keep your most important documents as safe as possible.
- Cash – new and in $5, 10 and 20. Most places I’ve been to accept MC or Visa in the markets and you can usually exchange dollars at the airport, which probably has the best (fairest) exchange rate.
- Copy of your passport that is kept either with another person traveling with you, in another location besides where the original is or even online if you will have internet access. Dropbox or Evernote are both free services where you can keep all your important documents. Even if you won’t have internet access it is likely that you could find it someplace.
- Medicine for motion sickness. There are many. Here is a link to WebMD.
- Camera/Video recorder. It depends where you are going as to what I recommend. If you have a smart phone that will probably work okay. If you are going to be taking pictures of kids who will want to see the photos I probably recommend bringing something different. Something small that does not cost a lot and that has a memory card that you can change out daily. I was in the DR one time and a kid took my camera. It happened in a second and he was gone. Luckily justice is swift in the DR. The police and our off duty police officer found who stole it, put a couple assault rifles to his head and asked that he return the camera. He was told the camera or your life! I’m glad he decided wisely. In 30 minutes I had it back but he did manage to erase all the pictures I had taken for the day. Luckily I had been swapping out memory cards so I only lost one day.
- Bathing suit – I know it goes with clothes but it is very possible you’ll find some place to swim.
- Shower shoes. I know women are pretty good about this but if you are not staying in a hotel room even you men who are reading this list should consider bringing along a pair of flip flops.
- Adapter for your power accessories. Not all countries have the same plugs that we have and it will be easier to find the right adapter in the United States than when you are on your mission trip. If you don’t know what type of power adapter to take here is a complete list by country.
- Neck pillow for plan or bus. Not necessary but you know you want to bring one. If you have a long trip makes for better sleeping.
- Antibiotic cream in case you get a cut.
- Basic first aid kit. If you are going as a group either create one central first aid kit or have 10 people bring a few of the basic items. The American Red Cross has a list of items that they recommend that can be found on their website.
- Travel insurance – Check with your health provider to see if you are covered in the country you are serving in. Travel insurance also has several other benefits. We’ve included a link if you would like to learn more.
- Language translator. If you have time learn basic words in the country’s native language. If you have a smart phone translation apps like Google translate are available and can be downloaded locally onto your phone which is handy since you probably will not have high speed internet connection. (But you never know. I’ve been out in the country surrounded by fields and houses with no power and come across a internet cafe run by generators!)
- Water bottle which you can use on the trip and while you are there. Please make sure you have found safe drinking water.
- Earplugs or headphones depending on your power situation. Different beds and noises may make sleeping difficult or you might be so tired you could sleep through anything!
- Zip-lock bags. Pack a extra 4-5. You’ll probably find uses for them and they take up no space in your luggage.
- Bible. Actually if you have a smart phone I recommend the Bible App. It is 100% free, can be downloaded to your phone or tablet and probably is available in the language of the country you are traveling to.
- Gospel tracts or some way to share the Gospel, especially if you are working with kids. I’m biased since I am partners at Memory Cross so if you have other suggestions write them in the comment box. This is why I like Memory Cross. They have an origami design that catches kid’s attention and are in black and white so bring along pencils or crayons and let the kids color them in. They present the Gospel in Spanish/English or Haitian Creole/English on the same card so kids not only hear the Gospel in their native language but they can also learn English. Order a free sample and see for yourself. Just click this link. I gave you this link even though you might not work full time for the church but we’ll pick up the freight using this link.
- Prayer/Attitude. Pray before you go, pray while you are there. Don’t be upset because your careful plans don’t go the way you thought. God is working through your efforts to reach others with His love. Look for God working. Open your heart. Realize that many countries do not operate on “American Time”. Things will get done. Be patient, love others.
Short term mission trips can change the lives of the kids you meet as well as your own life. Memory Cross supports a Medical center outside of Barahona Dominican Republic and a orphanage in Barahona all because of my first short term mission trip to the region. We’re helping to set up a support network that will allow more homeless children to have a safe place to live and know of God’s love with a goal of housing 100 kids. Presently there are 40 kids.
Before my first mission trip out of the country I looked at it as an inefficient use of funds. After all we could pay someone who is already down there to reach others. After my first trip my opinion was totally changed. If you are in doubt, go. If your heart and mind are open I think you will find it life changing.
I put together this list of 30 things to bring on a mission trip with the help of advice of friends who have been on a number of mission trips. If we missed anything please let us know. I put together some of my favorite photos from a few of our trips to the DR.
If would like to check out Mission trip Gospel tracts by Memory Cross click this link. The video below shows how all of our tracts work.
If you found this list of 30 things to bring on mission trip useful let others who are going on a mission trip know and if we missed something add it to the comment box. Copy the address at the top of your URL or click the share button.