Lesson #1 – Understand and be able to articulate your purpose.
These are all common questions that most everyone on a mission trip will be asked either directly or indirectly at some point in their journey. People will be naturally curious about your travels and having a well thought out answer to these questions ahead of time will serve you well.
When I served as a missionary and people asked me that question, I would rarely say that I was a missionary. I found it much better to explain what I was doing and let them draw their own conclusions about what to call that. This tended to give me greater opportunities to go deeper in our conversations about Jesus.
It is very important to be able to communicate (both en route and on location) what you are doing and why. In fact, just like the joke goes, it is helpful to have several different ways of explaining why the chicken crossed the road depending on who you are talking with (e.g. your boss, a classmate, trip supporter, neighbor on the airplane, immigration officer, man or woman on the street).
Helpful Hint: Knowing your purpose will also help you stay focused throughout the trip. Discuss the answer to this as a team and ask yourselves the question, what is it that we want people to understand and remember about our participation on this trip? How can my answer either enhance our conversation towards Jesus or hinder it? Then, craft a clear and concise statement or message that you can run by your hosts and share with others. Post this on the Launch pages of your trip and review it as a team in the GearUp phase.
Defining your purpose well is a key to healthy attitudes, expectations and the successful completion of your ministry trip.