Top 5 things to take on a mission trip

I have flown around the world. Literally. Back when I served with FAME, one trip took me from Indianapolis – Chicago – Germany – India – Thailand – Burma – Tokyo – Chicago – and back to Indianapolis. I’ve been traveling on mission trips for over 15 years to remote places around the world. And I’ve made about 26 trips to Haiti. Plus, I’m a little bit of a gear junky. So, I get asked regularly: “What should I bring on a mission trip?” The question comes from mission trip veterans to first-timers and everyone in between.

Here is what I consider the “must have” items on a mission trip, whether it is with Haitian Christian Outreach or any other place around the world.

Headlamp

Now most people will laugh when they see this on the list. Isn’t a flashlight just as good? Nope. It’s so much easier to use your headlamp when you are trying to read in your bunk or navigate your way to the bathroom in the dorm in the middle of the night. It is a very handy tool for finding things in your backpack instead of balancing a flashlight in your teeth. Plus, with a headlamp, you have two hands and light for your aim when throw something at your snoring dorm-mates. But, the most important reason to have a headlamp is that you never know when the generator is going to stop while you are in the middle of brushing your teeth or taking a shower and you are stuck in the dark trying to juggle a flashlight while finishing your task.

My current headlamp is a Black Diamond Spot with 130 lumens of wonderful power!

High Protein Snacks

I love sugar. But, sugar won’t get you to the next meal on a mission trip. High protein granola bars, beef jerky, almonds, or similar food can be a life-saver when you make a cultural food transition. Some days you will love the goat that is served for dinner and the next day the sight of the fish will make you feel nauseous. High protein snacks will help you through any difficult food situations. This is one reason we encourage teams to bring jars of peanut butter. There also may be those long days in the villages where a quick protein bar may be just what is needed to keep the smiles, laughing, and games going with the local kids that come out to play with the Americans. The good news is there are so many kinds of good protein bars available these days. And, hey, some combine protein with a little sweetness!

My current favorite is the Chocolate Brownie Clif Bar.

The Correct Shoes

One of the most asked questions that I receive is “What shoes should I take?” I usually respond by saying, “What will be your primary activity for the week?” and “What are the most comfortable shoes that you have?” I have seen more than a few people regret the flip-flops or trendy shoe choices they’ve made. Find out what kind of terrain you will be walking on. Even on campus in Peredo, the path is pretty rocky and uneven. Also, most Americans are not very active, but if you are spending every day on your feet during a mission trip you need to have the right shoes. If you are spending the week doing a soccer camp, you better have athletic shoes. The same goes for many different activities like surgery, construction, prayer walking in the villages, etc. Most of all, make sure you take shoes that will protect your feet from the environment (rocky terrain, water, etc) and make sure they are comfortable. Also, make sure you do put the flip-flops or slides in your bag for the shower and dorm.

I am currently a Keen and Merrell guy with a pair of Merrell World Passports, Keen Flint Low, and Keen Newport H2 Sandals in my bag.

Travel Pillow and Towel 

Have you ever tried to sleep on a plane or on a pillow that is as thin as a pancake? If you have, you will understand the real need for a good travel pillow. I miss the pillow I use at home when I travel and sleep in foreign places. But, since it’s so much more pleasant to travel light and space is usually at a premium, I want a compact, yet comfortable, option. (I’ve also seen people regret those large poofy neck pillows when they are lugging them around all week! They do look tempting at the airport, but resist. You’ll be glad you did!) My go-to pillow is an inflatable air pillow so I can get just the right amount of firmness in a travel size pillow and it packs small when I’m not using it.

I currently use the Cocoon Air-Core Hyperlite Pillow.

The same thought process goes into a pack towel. I love a soft fluffy towel at home, but often I find hotels in other countries have hard, stiff, or thin towels. I have also had numerous times where I have needed to be out in the village for several days or a week with my own lightweight towel.

Right now, I carry the Grand Trunk Road Towel.

Your Bible and Notebook

I love my electronic gadgets. I especially enjoy the Bible and the Notes app on my iPhone/iPad. But, make sure you take a real paperback Bible and notebook with you on the trip. There is nothing better than sitting under a mango tree with your Bible open and notebook ready to hear what God is communicating to you through His Word. You also don’t know if you might be called upon to speak the Word to a group of His people. Using a paper Bible that during your teaching is almost always more culturally appropriate. And, it’s awkward to have ask your missionary host to borrow a Bible for your teaching time. Make sure your Bible and notebook are small enough to fit in your day bag for going to the villages.

My preference is the ESV Thinline Bible.

Of course, you need to take more than five items on your trip! But, these are my top picks. My next 5 items would probably be:

  • Travel backpack
  • Day bag
  • Water bottle
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Smartphone – tablet – camera

Maybe that will be my next blog post! HCO also provides a list of suggested items in our Trip Packing Guidelines. Whether it is to Haiti or another location around the world, the #1 item you need to take with you is a willing heart and the love of God.

Safe travels!

Cameron Mayhill
Director of Development

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