This summer, 15 people set out on TEAM Vision Trips across the globe. Teams traveled to Japan, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Guatemala to catch a glimpse of how God is building his church in each place and explore how he might be calling them to be a part of building it there, too.
Unlike a traditional short-term mission trip, a vision trip’s purpose is not ministry activity, but rather to explore the challenges and opportunities for long-term ministry in a different culture.
This year, participants spent time with long-term missionaries to ask them candid questions about missionary life and work. In just a few weeks, participants gained crucial cultural insights about daily life that can only be learned firsthand.
Since their return, this year’s participants have reflected on their vision trip experiences. Read their insights below as you consider how a vision trip might play a critical role in your missionary journey.
Why did you choose to go on a vision trip?
For most participants, the decision to pursue a vision trip comes after they sense God calling them to cross-cultural service.
This was the case for Kayla, who says she traveled to the Middle East “to learn about job opportunities that suited me, my skill set and passion,” an expectation that she says was “met and exceeded.”
For Jeremy, the decision to pursue a vision trip to Guatemala was about timing. He feels a strong desire for mission work, but his rigorous master’s degree program means long-term missions is some time away. He says the vision trip’s short time commitment fit perfectly with his schedule and allowed him “to catch a vision of what a two-plus year … mission assignment could look like for me.”
How did your vision trip shape your view of missions?
“[God] taught me that if I am to be used in international missions, I need to be living a missional life. I can’t compartmentalize ministry,” Andrea says of her vision trip to Japan.
“This was something that I understood conceptually, but God unquestionably affirmed this truth within me through listening to [a missionary] talk about his experience. … This is where I am now, striving to grow in missional living and seeking [God] out to guide me … where he wants.”
Emily traveled to Southeast Asia and says her experiences among Buddhists made her “convinced that we need more [long-term workers] … in this part of the world.” She observed cultural and language barriers that make relationship-building among locals and missionaries a slow effort. For Emily, this realization renewed her zeal to pray that God would send committed laborers to this region.
For Jeremy, interacting with current missionaries was the most formative. “[A vision trip] helped me realize that missionaries are ordinary people who really love God and seek to follow his call. It gave me real life experience with missionaries who still find time to go to the gym in the morning or hike a volcano in their free time.
“I got to sit in on serious conversations about how the church should react to homeless people being rejected from other churches. I got to listen to missionaries process difficult situations while trying to keep their American biases from intruding on their decisions. … It was a fantastic trip that affirmed my desire to do cross-cultural ministry.”
How has taking a vision trip helped you discern your next steps?
There is no correct conclusion from a vision trip. Some will return feeling affirmed that God wants them to pursue cross-cultural service, while other participants will sense God leading them another way.
After her experience in Southeast Asia, Emily found God leading her down an unexpected path. She imagined her trip would accelerate her to a long-term commitment overseas; however, through prayer and debriefing, God has given her peace to continue serving locally.
She cherishes this revelation, saying, “Without having gone on the vision trip I would likely still be in a ‘half in, half out’ mindset, rather than diving all in to what God has for me in the here and now.”
As a result of her trip to the Middle East, Kayla is energized to continue pursuing missionary service. She moves forward now with a greater understanding of the Great Commission reflecting, “Christ’s commands and promises are the same whether we are located in California, Canada or the Middle East. We are called to love God and love people. By this, we will make a lasting impression wherever we may live or go.”