Short-term trips turn up the heat in a volunteer’s life revealing his or her true character. Normally character flaws can be hidden, but extra stress comes from:
- 24/7 interaction with a small group of people, some of whom have irritating habits (maybe you are irritating others just as much!)
- each day’s schedule is different than the day before and then the plans change, (and then they change again).
- fatigue from jet lag and long days filled with activity
- indecisiveness of field or team leadership
- communicating cross-culturally, (talking slowly with carefully selected wording and listening to people who are learning English is very draining)
- extra walking and waiting because of public transportation, poor roads, or lack of parking
- absence of personal time because of full schedules and shared rooms
- disappointment in one’s self for not being as bold in ministry or for showing lack of patience with others.
How to prepare for this?
Be on the alert! Normally you can handle any of these issues or even all of these issues if you are expecting them. Part of your trip preparation is to expect and recognize these times of refining. In Peter’s first letter, he says, “Dear friends, don’t be surprised when the fiery ordeal comes among you to test you as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, rejoice as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory, 1 Pet. 4:12-13.
Remember that you have placed yourself in a spiritual battle. For most, short-term projects are a time of accelerated personal and spiritual growth. Growth often comes with “refining fire” or pressure. Most people, when they look back over their lives to times of growth, realize these seasons often corresponded with times of stress and difficulty. The apostle Peter encourages with these words, “You rejoice in this, though now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Pet. 1:6-7. This fire is God’s curriculum of character development in your life.
While on the trip, have a way to remind yourself that Satan is subtly trying to trip you up: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your fellow believers throughout the world,” 1 Pet. 5:8-9.
In addition to staying healthy physically by doing your best to eat and sleep well, also stay healthy spiritually by actively praying for the people on your team and those you are ministering to. It is more difficult to be irritated by someone you are constantly praying for. Continually renew your mind with the truth of God’s word. When irritations come up, recognize them as Satan’s attacks and deliberately respond with the patience, forgiveness, and grace that you want others to give you. “Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins,” 1 Pet. 4:8. Be able to rise above the difficulty by seeing the trial as God’s unique curriculum given to you to develop your character.
Short-term trips are trials. Embrace the trials as an opportunity to grow spiritually!
Do you have an example of a trial that turned into character building on a short-term trip?
Other posts in this series: