Each summer, as we prepare to return to California, my wife and I compile a list of what we need to take out, what we need to bring back, and what we need to accomplish. Since she's significantly more thorough than I am her list is considerably longer! Having these things listed out with their corresponding dates helps us to plan the rest of our vacation to make it as enjoyable as possible. We've accounted for what we have to do and when; the rest is chill time!
Preparing for a mission trip comes with its own unique set of logistical concerns. Depending on the type of trip and the organization you're working with your list might have a few items or as many as twenty. Below are the logistical considerations that are common to a missions program:
There's no way we can cover every logistical concern in one post. First off, there's simply too many of them and second everyone's organization and situation is too unique. Fortunately, some have been addressed in the previous posts T.E.A.M. and Aligning Training. For now we'll look at four items: Budget, Applications, Communication, Travel Prep.
Your operating budget is determined by the total funds necessary to pull off the trip. It helps to begin by doing some informed guess work on all the known expenses. That means doing things like checking Amazon for cost of supplies, Expedia for cost of flights, and getting an estimate from your local contact for expenses during the trip. I recommend adding a 5-10% buffer just to be safe; you don't want to set the trip cost too low only to ask participants for more money later. Below is an example budget from a past trip to Myanmar. Note that Korean Won is being used as the primary currency which makes things fun when we receive quotes in both US Dollar and Burmese Kyat! BTW, I use Google Sheets for budgeting as it's easy to set up a template and saves changes in realtime.
For this trip our total expenses were around 28,000,0000 KRW (about 27,000 USD - we'll use USD from now on for convenience) with an estimated 23 total participants. From there we're able to divide up the cost per person. For this GSIS trip I've structured payments so that the leader pays 1/3 and chaperones pay 1/2 the amount of standard participants. Since the leader and chaperones are doing extra work before, during, and after the trip I feel this compensation is well warranted - you can adjust this ratio as your organization sees fit. This is what the payments will boil down to: One trip leader pays 350 USD, two chaperones pay 700 USD (each), and 19 participants pay 1,400 USD (each). Our total paid in is 28,350 which gives us plenty left over for miscellaneous expenses, an emergency fund, and even a celebration dinner for participants and their families.
It's best to set your application open and close dates in tandem with the amount of preparation needed and when you'll purchase flight tickets. At GSIS we typically begin our annual launch about 6 months prior to the actual trip. This provides us plenty of time to have to filter all applications - around 100 for 6 trips- and have multiple "backs and forths" with our local host and travel agents. Be sure that a simple and clearly articulated application process is prepared in advance for potential participants to follow. On gsisvase.com we've distilled the process like this:
When setting up your application consider the following:
Good communication is absolutely essential for your team's success. With 6 months between initial sign-ups to the actual departure date I try to not go more than 2 -3 weeks with at least communicating something to our stakeholders.
Below are some additional thoughts for communicating with specific groups:
With Parents (if your trip has students):
With Local Hosts:
Your work as a cross-cultural missionary begins long before you ever step foot on foreign soil. The people you will serve alongside of in other places will have their own assumptions and ideas of what a healthy partnership should look like. The following values will help guide you through a positive experience with foreign contacts:
As obvious as it sounds I should state that what you pack will be determined by where you are going. When preparing a packing list I like to organize it by mandatory and optional. I simply tell my team that everything in the mandatory section must be in your bag and IF you have space feel free to include things from the optional section. Below is a packing list I made for an in-country trip with 8th graders. An out-of-country trip packing list would be largely similar but would also include things like passports, travel clothes, and money in the local currency.
Depending on the rigor of the trip I've found it helpful to conduct a packing simulation as part of training. Simply provide members with the packing list in advance and instruct them to show up to training with everything they would bring if they were leaving for the trip that day. Ask them to keep track of the time it took them to pack as well. During training have everyone empty their bags and arrange their stuff to see how it fares alongside other members and most importantly the packing list. I also use this time to show how I pack and give them a few tips I've learned along the way (like using compression bags to minimize space).
Things are going to be hectic on your departure day so it's important to take steps to minimize any undue stress as you travel. These tips might help:
Well that wraps up our time on navigating through logistics! Is there anything you'd add or like me to cover? Let me know in the comment section below! See those social media icons at the bottom? Go ahead and click one to share this blog - it would mean a lot to me:)
Up next we'll take a look at how to thrive on the field. Until then,
Keep giving what you have to give.
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