Tips to Enjoy Short Mission Trips in Latin-American Countries
By Pastor Eugenio Maltez
Short-mission teams are a great opportunity for Vineyard partnerships and for local Vineyards to make friends, strengthen relationships, be partners in ministry and have fellowship. These things bring a healthy relationship between the Vineyards and help advance the Kingdom of God in our countries.
These tips can help you to improve your experience and enjoy your mission trip to Latin countries.
LET’S GET STARTED
What you HAVE to do:
First of all, remember why you are here! Don’t think of your trip as religious tourism. You are here on mission, so ask God to use you to bless the locals.
Improve your Spanish - Latinos like to speak "Spanglish" with "Cheles," meaning blondes or blondies, so if you do your homework to learn some Spanish expressions like "gracias" (thank you),"por favor" (please), "mucho gusto!" (nice to meet you!), and, of course, “tengo hambre” (I’m hungry) and the basic “donde queda el baño?” (Where is the bathroom?), you’ll be fine.
Keep a servant attitude - Keep your eyes opened and be proactive, take the initiative to greet, to pray for others, to do something, to be interested in their needs and concerns.
Be friendly and kind - A smile can break the ice, and your body language is important. You can express the unconditional love of God to locals through a friendly attitude. Introduce yourself and don’t judge people for their appearance.
Think the best of others - This is an old-fashioned Vineyard value, and it works very well with Latinos; it’s a great chance to show the Christian face of Americans. Latinos are curious about Americans. Most Latino-American countries have migrants living in America, so they want to meet and find out what Americans are really like.
Have Fun! - Latinos like to laugh, eat, play and hang out together -- even dance! Be involved with them. Even Latino funerals become a good reason to meet old friends, drink coffee, eat, talk, tell stories and laugh. Also, enjoy the landscapes! We have beautiful lakes, beaches, lagoons, volcanoes, islands, rain forests, colonial cities, folklore, flowers, food and colored people, so enjoy la Fiesta!
Be ready - Before you come, research what you can help with or which ministries -- like adults, youth, women, kids, etc. -- or activities you can get involved. When you’re packing, think of items you can bring that will help these ministries. Include stuff in your checklist like bookmarks or stationary so you can write personalized colored notes to encourage locals. You could also bring crayons/coloring books or notebooks.
What You DON’T have To Do:
Don’t demand punctuality - Latinos are very relaxed about time, especially when they are not working. For a party or celebration, they usually come 15 or 30 minutes later, so don’t get mad at them.
Don’t ignore people - It’s offensive to just ignore people. Instead, be polite, smile naturally and pay attention. If you are talking with some Latinos and don’t understand, call the interpreter or other guys who can help you.
Don’t be fancy - Sometimes short-term missionaries forget that they are not in the U.S.A. Don’t expect to have all the comfort and services that you take for granted. I remember an outreach in an Open Market where young people were looking for public bathrooms in the wrong place. Even if we have have McDonalds or Pizza-Hut, multinational restaurants don’t have the same quality or menu.
I give you these tips from my experience as a Latino pastor at a local Vineyard. I want your trip to be beneficial for you and the locals.
Have a Great and Blessed Short Mission Trip next time!