Acts 18:21 â€śbut taking leave of them and saying, "I will return to you again if God wills," he set sail from Ephesus.â€ť 1 Corinthians 4:19 â€śBut I will come to you soon, if the Lord willsâ€¦â€ť
As this is a subject fresh in my mind (given that I have begun to preparefor Nigeria) I thought I would put together some thoughts on preparing for a mission trip.
DEPORD List My son Sam (Captain Sam Mahon USAF ret) actually christened my list the D.E.P.O.R.D. list, as this is what he used as an F16 maintenance officer when his wing was on the move. This list begins one month before departure and has twenty-two pages of items to be checked off. This list serves three purposes â€“ First: It prevents me from reinventing the wheel every time we go on a mission trip. This is a work in progress and one of the last items on the list to check off is to go back and add any new items to the list. If I learn something new, I write it on the list and put a star by the item. This, then, is added as a check box for the next time out. That brings me to the second purpose â€“ many of the difficulties, horror stories or problems people face on short (or long) mission trips could be avoided with careful planning. God the Holy Spirit warns us in Ephesians 4:27 â€ś and do not give the devil an opportunity,â€ť so it is my philosophy to seek to cover every contingency when traveling. One way to do this is to learn from others, so, many things on this list have arisen from my early talks with more seasoned missionaries. Finally, it prevents me from needlessly worrying. Early in this process, I would panic when I thought of all that had to be done. That is when I decided to break down my duties into weekly and daily responsibilities. I realized that I did not need to get 150 things done the first day but only five. I could live with that. Jesus Christ exhorts us in Matthew 6:34 "So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.â€ť This is not an excuse for irresponsibility but, if we are organized and methodical, by fulfilling todayâ€™s responsibilities we need not fear the future.
Fund raising God the Holy Spirit teaches us in 3 John 8 â€śTherefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.â€ť In Godâ€™s divine wisdom, He has ordained that mission work be done by the whole church, not just by a few. Raising finances to purchase Bibles, Bible study aids and Bible reference works must be done months ahead. For many of those to whom we minister overseas, the volumes they receive exceed their monthly salary. For others, even if they have the money, these precious volumes are not available in their country. We, therefore, have covenanted to never go empty-handed. As God provides, we always bring with us Bibles, Bible study aids and Bible reference works for pastors, ministers, student workers and missionaries. In addition, we seek to purchase all our plane tickets a year ahead of time. In the US, if a conference speaker cancels, there are many options but overseas there is often no one to fill his shoes. When we make a commitment to minster in Russia, Japan, Africa or anywhere else, we like to be able to immediately purchase the ticket. If no more money comes in for materials, at least we will be there, Bible in hand, ready to minister.
Ordering and collecting In my mission work, I work on the â€śsucked orange principle.â€ť When I leave a country, I want to look like a sucked orange. We depart laden down with Bibles and spiritual resources and full of Godâ€™s Word and energy â€“ we leave empty, like a sucked orange. I have no patience with the pseudo-executive missionary who boasts of his ability to travel â€ślight.â€ť I remember getting off a flight in a third-world country. I was waiting for my host to pull up with the van he had borrowed, along with two deacons and their cars. I was covered with sweat and my suit was dirty. I had just finished moving 20, 50lbs boxes of Bibles and resources through the airport, customs and out to the front, where I could be met by my host. Next to me was a smartly dressed â€śmissionary executive.â€ť He was visiting from the headquarters of his organization, to spend the same amount of time at a similar conference. He was smartly dressed, relaxed and had with him his carry-on and small bag. I remember him bragging to me how he had learned over the years to travel light. He then chuckled as he got into the waiting cab. This lifestyle is one that I pray I shall never learn or emulate. Jesus Christ reminds me in John 10:11 " I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. â€ś While under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, the missionary Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:15: â€śI will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? â€ś Bibles, Bible study aids and Bible reference works must be ordered ahead of time. My children always know when a mission trip is drawing near as our foyer begins to fill with boxes. The UPS and Postal workers also know and look forward to delivering these items as we always have bottled water, New Testaments and evangelistic books for those who come to our door.
Visas Some people donâ€™t realize that visas are different from passports. An American passport proves my citizenship but does not get me into any country I choose. Instead, I must apply for an entry visa for most countries I visit. This is a process that can take weeks and cost several hundred dollars. It is an important element of prayer because, even if you have the plane tickets and the boxes, you still need the visa to get into the country.
Plane tickets Ticket prices vary from year to year. In addition, we must pay excess baggage for the extra boxes we take. Generally a 50lb box of Bible and reference works costs about $150.00 to take with us as excess baggage. We have found that to ship them ahead is unwise, as they are subject to theft, damage and repeated duty fees. It is far cheaper and safer just to take them with us so that we can personally shepherd them to their destination.
Putting together the packing party It was about ten years ago that we began having a packing party. Before then, it would take El and me about four days to do the administrative work and pack up the boxes. Then board member Ron Brown shared Exodus 18:17-18 where Mosesâ€™ father-in-law exhorted Moses, "The thing that you are doing is not good. You will surely wear out , both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.â€ť That is when we began organizing packing parties. We are so grateful for the faithful friends who have come to help us over the years. We can get all the work done in one day and many are able to join with us in our mission endeavor.
Personal Packing Next comes personal packing. My wife is a genius at this. How many women do you know who can get two monthsâ€™ worth of clothing and personal needs for two people into three suitcases, plus gifts and medical supplies for the families we are visiting? I praise God for her!! Our suitcases must be weighed, as well, and come in at 50lbs.
Decorating for our return Returning from a mission trip can be an unusual experience. I remember going into our bathroom the first of November and noticing the reading magazine was the 4th of July edition. You go into a restaurant and say, â€śDid you redecorate?â€ť and they say, â€śYeh, but that was way back at the first of the year!â€ť One of the things my sweet daughter Megan does is to decorate the house for the time of year of our return right before we leave. We will get back from Russia in November. If the house is not decorated for fall already, we will be too tired to do it. It really means a lot to El to have the seasonal decorations up so this is on my DEPORD list and Megan is always willing to help out.
Day of departure The day of departure, Mark and Rowena Brooks will show up with his SUV to get us to the airport. Dan McCollum is also available. This was the job of good friends Rick Hughes and Bob Leachman but both of them have retired and moved to be near their children. Mark and Dan have jumped in to fill the gap. The boxes are loaded up, along with our suitcases. Then I take a shower and change into my suit. We get to the airport just a soon as the check-in gate opens, that is about four hours ahead of departure. Again, I donâ€™t want to give the devil an opportunity, so we get there first, while the personnel are fresh. All our boxes are under weight, they are secure and labeled. We try to have a good testimony when we travel. The head of the baggage area has asked me to email him to let him know when we are coming. We always pray with the baggage guys and he does not want to miss out on his blessings. The Skycaps all call me â€śThe Revâ€ť and are eager to help out. We have witnessed to them all, given them all Bibles and books (and generous tips) and they all know what we are about.
Well I hope this gives you an idea of what it is like for us to get off on a mission trip. I have left many of the details out because of the space limitations on the blog page but this is pretty much the â€śbig picture.â€ť
By His mercy, II Corinthians 4:1 Rev. John S. Mahon â€“ Director, Grace Community International Preparing for departurer to Nigeria
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