The numbers are striking: At least 1.5 million North Americans go on short-term mission trips every year.
What an investment! It costs billions of dollars to send those folks around the globe, but a recent survey from Evangelical Fellowship of Canada found that “three-quarters of pastors agreed that (short-term trips) are an important form of discipleship for their local congregation.”
Short-term trips often feel life-changing while you’re on them. They can be intense and eye-opening and emotional. You might see God at work in ways you couldn’t have imagined. And you think you’ll never forget the people you’ve met, the lessons you’ve learned, the prayers you’ve seen answered.
But with time, memories fade and feelings subside. Journaling is an excellent way to record experiences, impressions and lessons during a short-term trip, but when you’re all worn out from a long day of ministry and blurry-eyed from jet lag, staring at a blank page might feel totally overwhelming.
Enter the GOJOURNAL.
This free journaling tool is specifically designed to stimulate thinking and to record experiences, feelings and lessons during EVERY stage of a short-term mission trip — before, during and after.
How it works
The “before” section rounds up practical, useful articles to help you think through why you’re going and how to graciously enter and serve in another culture. In addition to asking about how you’re feeling pre-trip, the journaling questions will help you write your testimony so that you’ll be prepared to share about Christ wherever he leads.
The “during” section contains a daily template with a devotional plus two sets of questions. The first set helps you capture the day’s experiences — including where you were, what you did, and any novel sounds, flavors, smells or other experiences. The second set is designed to provoke thinking on what you are learning about God, yourself and others, and how that might translate into how you live your life back home.
Toward the end of your trip, the GOJOURNAL starts to prepare you to head home by asking you to describe your expectations for your return, to think through what you’ll miss the most (and the least) about your time in cross-cultural ministry, and to record your feelings about going back.
And this is where most trip journals would stop. But the GOJOURNAL carries on, because the most significant teaching or mentoring moments often occur after a short-term missionary returns home. Unfortunately, after many mission trips, the important step of debriefing gets skipped. Maybe the short-term missionary is asked to give a presentation to their Sunday School class, but no one takes the time to ask how they were changed, what they regretted, what it was like serving with a team, what they miss, what shocked them, how they feel about being back, and how God is leading them to be involved in missions in the future.
The GOJOURNAL guides you through a series of thought-provoking questions to help you analyze, process and rejoice in what the Lord taught you. One example: “What changes (for the better) have you seen in yourself as a result of your trip? How can you make sure that the changes stick?” If growing as a disciple of Christ is your goal, these questions will help you integrate all he taught into your daily life — and may spark ideas for how you can continue to serve him in the future.
Ideally, the short-term missionary will debrief with a mentor, and the journal also includes questions that would provide great jumping-off points for those conversations.
By recording your experiences, feelings and God-given convictions before, during and after the trip, you will have created a precious resource for seeing the bigger picture of what God is doing in the world and in your life.
How to get it
The GOJOURNAL is available in two formats: a free electronic web app, and a printed version that costs $30. Customized print versions can be made for a modest fee, depending on the complexity of the customization.
The GOJOURNAL was developed by SEND Canada, with collaboration from a number of mission agencies including Christar, Ethnos, Team, and OMF. It draws upon resources from various sources, including the Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions and experienced short-term mission experts.
Visit gojournal.org to learn more, to register for the free electronic journal, or to order paper copies.
If you have questions, email Ed at [email protected].
The Global Missions Podcast has several episodes about short-term missions, including an interview with Ed Vencio, who helped create the GOJOURNAL. Check that episode out here.
Other episodes on this theme: