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How to Prepare for Cross-Cultural Experiences

How to Prepare for Cross-Cultural Experiences

MARCH  11,  2020    |    4  MINUTE  READ    |    KATELAND  VERNON

A short-term mission experience might only last two weeks or less, but the time you spend preparing is equally important to the time you spend in a ministry location. Here are seven tips to help you arrive on site ready to make the most of your time serving cross-culturally.

A photo of a volunteer helping a young Albanian boy shoot a basketball through the hoop and of another volunteer holding a little Albanian girl on her lap.

  1. Be in Prayer
    Before you go: Spend time asking God what your role on this trip should be and pray that He will help your heart and attitude be aligned with His. Build a prayer team and invite people into prayer for the ministry and location where you will be going to serve.

    When you arrive: Pray individually and as a team that God’s will be done, regardless of what goals your team might have set. Pray that you will approach your time serving in a different culture with a learning mentality.

  2. Be Curious
    Before you go: Research the ministry location where you will be serving. Find out about their history, culture, food, and current events. Ask your team leader questions about the culture, including what to expect and what you should know before traveling there. Also, if possible, communicate with your global worker hosts to ask how you can best help them while you are there.

    When you arrive: Listen more than you speak. Ask your team leader or host global worker what questions are appropriate to ask the others you are interacting with. For example, it might not be appropriate to ask a local friend about a cultural difference, as the question may cause offense. Overall, adopt an attitude of learning, seeking to understand the culture and those around you more.

    The Least of These Ministry in Kenya

  3. Be Flexible
    Before you go: Plan ahead but know that your plan will likely change. Ask your team leader about the culture’s views on time and schedules so you can set your expectations accordingly.

    When you arrive: Stay positive in the face of changes. Don’t complain—this only makes your host and team leader’s jobs more difficult. It also reflects poorly on those connected with the team. Instead, be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading! View changes in projects, events, and activities as an opportunity to shine Christ’s light.
  4. Be Present
    Before you go: Fully engage in your team meetings and trainings. Pay attention and get to know the other members of your team so you can bond with them. You’ll be working closely together on this trip, so the effort you put toward working together will go a long way.

    When you arrive: It may be tempting to take pictures or spend a lot of time on your phone, but resist the urge. Put your phone away and build relationships and lasting memories. Be intentional to get to know your host, the local community, and the missionary kids. Find out if there is a way to serve them while you are there and how you can pray for them.

    A photo of volunteers playing Checkers with children in Honduras.
  5. Be Considerate
    Before you go: Be kind to others during team member trainings. Give them your full attention. Engage in conversations about cultural norms that may differ from your own and make a conscious effort to consider how you should avoid offending others. You might even consider acting out scenarios you could encounter and practicing how to respond.

    When you arrive: Defer to your host as the expert on this culture, following their guidelines and suggestions. Stay with your group and make safe decisions instead of wandering off by yourself or with a friend. If your host goes out of their way to make a meal for you, eat it. Remember that you’re representing the ministry and organization you’re working with. Not only that, but you’re representing Christ! Behave in a way that will honor Him and consider carefully how your actions will affect others.
  6. Be Humble
    Before you go: Think about and plan ways for your team to serve others. Recognize and identify self-glorifying actions that might be tempting but should be avoided. Understand that maintaining a humble attitude might mean doing certain things you don’t want to, but you should be prepared to do them anyways.

    When you arrive: Remember that this experience isn’t about you; it’s about others. You are going as a servant. Look for ways to help others wherever you go, as long as those methods of helping have been approved by your host or team leader.

    A photo of a volunteer corralling two toddlers at the Africa Gospel Church Baby Center.
  7. Be Realistic
    Before you go: Ask your team leader what the goal of your trip is. Talk about this goal as a team, recognizing that a short-term team is limited in what it can accomplish. Plan to go as a visitor, learning more about the culture and missions in general.

    When you arrive: Don’t focus on all the things about a culture you would like to change or the problems you think are evident. Instead, focus on the relationships you can build and the help you can provide during your time. Spend time pouring into the long-term global workers who are established in that culture and will likely be able to effect more lasting change. Remember that true impact takes time and that you won’t be able to—nor should you—change an entire culture in two weeks. Instead, seek to become an advocate for missions, thinking about the ways you can support global workers from home.

Preparing for a short-term mission experience can seem overwhelming at times, but it’s more about connecting people with Jesus. If you and your team spend some time in conversation and prayer, seeking to align your hearts and attitudes with God’s, you can surrender your short-term trip to Him, trusting that He will use your time, abilities, and willingness to impact others for His glory.

Are you interested in pursuing a cross-cultural experience?

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