Team trips are increasingly common and can be an ideal way to make an initial venture into understanding overseas mission, to see first-hand what God is doing elsewhere and the realities of working and living in another culture. Doing so with a group provides support for team members, especially for first-timers overseas and to locations vastly different from our own. Trip timeframes are also usually manageable around academic breaks and annual leave, with most lasting two-three weeks. The purpose of a team could range from evangelism to practical assistance or simply exposure to culture and ministry through observation. With the exception of a specific practical project, it is important for all team members to be clear that most team trips are not necessarily about 'doing', rather about observation and learning. In a few short weeks you cannot offer much to those on the ground simply because you may not have the language to communicate clearly and you're transient (in and out). Mission workers have been there longer, have created relationships, and understand culture and customs in way that cannot be grasped in two weeks. Your presence and impact will simply be touching the surface and you will not 'save the world' in this time! Understanding this going in helps minimise wrong expectations and ensures the trip is more effective for all involved. Remember your actions as a team will also affect long termers that remain behind well after you've gone.However the experience of two-three weeks with a group of others in another country observing God at work, can be transformative. Learning to work and be as a team with different personalities and backgrounds, sharing with others the experience of another culture, supporting each other as individuals react in their own way to what God is doing in the world – these are all significant aspects of being part of a team. Individuals return home having re-examined their own priorities, perceptions and understandings of the realities of others have been permanently changed and some deeper reflection and exploration about longer term service to God and others has been initiated and developed.
If you are thinking about joining in with a team there are some things worth keeping in mind as you work through your personal decisions. These include:
- What is your purpose/aim in joining a short term team? Is this a one-off or an initial step for longer term possibilities?
- How could you contribute/add to a team? What skills might you bring (particularly if the team has a practical focus)? How do you relate to a range of ages and personalities?
- What are your expectations from the trip? Do you want to 'do' or are you more focused on the experience and observing?
- How open are you to what God may do in your life during/after this trip and what that means for the future?