Hey y'all! I have been thinking about this post for a while, ever since I got back from Ghana. I feel like going on a longer trip is a huge thing, and I know before I sought as much advice as I could get. Still, there are some things I wish I had done differently in preparation and also while I was there. Here is the stuff I think went well, and things I could have done better!
Do get to know your team mates. Meeting with Olivia and Hillary every week was really helpful for spending time over there. I think the fundraisers and planning meetings we had every week really helped us get to know our personalities and how we could best encourage each other. For instance, Hillary loved hugs and that is really how she was encouraged. So somehow someone came up with the 10 second hug.
Do research the culture. I did this a little, but I sooooo wish I had done it more. The culture will affect everything about your ministry. Especially know what is culturally acceptable and not. If you don't understand the culture you risk trying to "Americanize" the people you are ministering to. And God didn't create everyone to be Americans. Eat up as much information as you can get. I know in Ghana it was very rude to not tell people "Good morning/afternoon/evening." I am sure some people thought we were rude without us meaning to be! Definitely wish I had researched more. However...
Don't come in acting like you know anything. From discipline to dress to manners, I know in the 2 months there was so much I didn't understand. We were given a lot of free reign in taking care of the kids, but I wish I had held back a lot more. If you come in and take over, again, it is easy to Americanize or to kick someone important out of their job instead of encouraging them in their position in the body of Christ.
Do communicate regularly with your team mates, hosts, and ministry. There are going to be times you are annoyed. There are going to be times you are mad. There are going to be times where no one has any idea what needs to be done. This is so important to be effective!
Do encourage each other. Even though we do not do things for earthly rewards, encouragement is one way God can speak through other people and restore your spirit. There were many times this summer when the enemy snuck in and made me feel useless and replaceable when this was missing. Remember in times when you are feeling down to seek it from Christ, but also just ask your team mates. Also, in your times of feeling down, try to encourage someone else on your team.
What would be your advice to a summer missionary? How could they be most effective in their ministry?