Medical missions trips can be a great source of inspiration, education, and even adventure while we serve others and release new blessings into their lives. If you’ve never been part of a team, you probably have questions and concerns about how to help people without falling into white savior mode. If you’re unfamiliar with that term white savior, you can read more about what that means here.

The primary difference between a medical missions trip that helps, and one that hurts, is knowing this trip is not for or about us. These trips are ultimately about serving other people by helping them be healthier. It’s all about individual and community empowerment. While immersed in other cultures, nations, or regions, there are three key things to remember that will help you serve others well on your first medical missions trip.

1) Be Sensitive to the Moment As You Serve

It’s natural to want to remember the sights and sounds of the moments we spent with others. While we are on the medical missions trip, we can jot down notes to aid us in journaling and writing supportive fundraising content once we are home and take lots of pictures. We often want to be able to show friends and family how we were able to serve others and what it was like so they can understand the mission and support it. When we are photographing scenic views and momentous events or people, we want to be sure we have permission to include everything or anyone.

There may be some places you go on your first medical missions trip where we need to be especially sensitive in this regard, so if you’re unsure, ask your group’s leaders, the person you are talking with, and study about the culture and any context or specific regional information you may need to know prior to going on the trip.

When we take pictures or write about what we experience on these trips, it’s important to have the right heart. We are not the savior of anyone.

How we present where we’ve been is a reflection of who we are. We need to go with hearts fully set on loving others where they are and serving them rather than making ourselves look good. Trust in the organization is built up with others when we show we honor and respect them and everything anyone does in the group can build trust.

2) Be Generous With Gratitude

Inviting a medical missions team into your community takes a lot work and isn’t always the most convenient. The people on the ground have likely spent months organizing, planning, and connecting with people in the community. When on your first medical missions trip it’s important to not center your sacrifices or work. Give praise and thanks generously, but make sure it is genuine.

Recognize that true partnership will only happen if you choose to value the people, places, resources, and customs in the community you’re serving. Listen well and don’t assume that different means lesser. Choosing gratitude softens our hearts and keeps our ego in check. Simple things like being willing to try unfamiliar things and really listening to what people are saying will go a long way in developing impactful relationships.

3) Focus on The People You Are There To Serve, Not Yourself

The biggest mistake people make on medical missions trips is to focus on self. This trip isn’t about you. It’s about the people you are there to serve and it’s about supporting the work of the local partners. So let them be the focus of your thoughts and actions. Worry less about how this will impact you in the moment and process that after the trip. Thinking about the people you’re serving will help you be fully present which is crucial to actually making a difference.

Listening to people with open ears and an open heart is the first step. If we put our focus on listening to understand, we may learn something while at the same time conveying our respect and honor of others and their unique situations.

You may not always speak the language of the people where you’re going on a medical missions trip, and they may not speak yours perfectly either, so it’s a good idea to make arrangements for a reliable translator who has years of ongoing fluency in the language of the people. The internet connection or wifi in a place may only have a certain amount of bandwidth. If there are any confusing phrases or words that cannot simply be Googled, translators can help you.

Are You Ready to Serve on Your First Medical Missions Trip?

We would love to meet you and help you explore this exciting area of ministry. Click on Volunteer to read about upcoming trips and how you can get involved!

Do you need some questions answered before you say yes to your first medical missions trip? We’d love to answer your questions about joining our team. Click here to submit your question via our contact page. We look forward to hearing from you!