By Emily Drayne
Many people mistakenly think an internship or short-term trip with a missions organization will require that they stand on a soapbox and talk to passersby about Jesus. That is not true.
Vocational degrees such as business, agriculture, engineering, and cosmetology are among the fastest-growing ways to get into some of the more closed-off places on earth to spread the Word of God.
In 2011, during my senior year of college, advisers started to ask me what I planned to do once I left campus. I quickly realized I had no plans. Fast-forward two months, I was talking to Patricia Kim of Christ Reaching Asia Mission in the exhibit hall at the International Conference On Missions (ICOM). About 20 minutes into our conversation, she asked, “Why don’t you come and spend the summer with us in China?” My first thought was, Yeah! Why don’t I? She had no idea I had been praying an opportunity would present itself at ICOM.
Since that “God moment,” I’ve discovered four fundamental elements that help equip students for a short-term mission trip or internship.
Prayer is the most important aspect of the journey. It’s also important to be part of the student missionary’s support system—whether it is as a parent, youth minister/leader, or friend. Without my support system at home, I’m not sure I would have gone to China that summer.
Students who go on mission trips need the prayers of people in their support system—and praying with them is even better! In my case, after my first month in China, the “new life” feeling had worn off, and it sank in that I had two months left without my family and friends . . . and I was struggling mightily to learn the language. Prayer support and my own personal spiritual life helped me get through those times.
One of the first things a student needs to do is select where they want to serve. Most people will have a few countries that have interested them over the years; start with those possibilities. Whatever the fascination—food, history, language, or something else—find a launching point. I recommend having a few possibilities in case you start planning and the student decides the first choice isn’t a good fit.
A student will also need to serve with an organization. Your church might already support a mission; contact a representative of that group. Another option is to contact a large missions organization like ICOM to see if they can suggest a missionary serving in that country. Reach out to someone who has the resources to connect the student missionary with the right organization.
I found fund-raising one of the hardest parts of internship preparation. Most internships are unpaid, and so it falls to the intern to raise the money to pay for their time there. Asking for money can be uncomfortable, but it’s part of the process. It’s smart to have a well-written “ask letter.” Many people start by asking their family, friends, and home church for donations toward their trip. Another option for the student is to create a GoFundMe page to help spread word of the trip.
A student missionary should work to get the church family involved in the process. Make sure your students know that their service to the kingdom is important to the church. My home church was very supportive and arranged for me to speak to a few Sunday school classes leading up to my internship. I made a presentation that showed the horse farm where I would do hippotherapy, the school where I’d teach English, and the bakery where I’d help make bread.
Providing visuals of how their money would be used went a long way in the “ask” portion of my planning. Some fund-raising ideas are less typical. A few people have organized a pancake breakfast to raise money, with hundreds of people showing up to support the trip. Why not open your church kitchen or fellowship areas to show your support!
After a short-term student missionary returns home, sit down with them and ask about their experience and what their life will look like going forward—that’s the final piece of this lengthy process. A student who spends a week at camp or a youth conference can come home on a spiritual high. They’re on fire for Jesus, but then they settle back into everyday life. Debriefing is crucial to any mission trip, conference, or internship to make sure the student fully processes the experience.
It comes down to just being there. Coming up with ideas for fund-raising, researching fun facts about the country a student will serve in, and encouraging them in the months leading up to their departure date—these are great gifts. The fact that your student is interested in an overseas missions experience is incredible. There are so many opportunities for people of all backgrounds and interests. They will be forever changed by their experience and will return with a lifetime’s worth of memories.
Emily Drayne lives in North Carolina and has served with the International Conference on Missions since 2011.
HORIZONS EXTRA: Five Steps to Get You Started
By Emily Drayne
It seemed like a daunting task to decide everything when I was preparing to spend three months in a foreign country. Where do I start? Where in the world do I want to go? Who will know the best way to get from point A to B? These are the types of questions for which you’ll need answers. Here are five steps to get you started.
1. Pray! Remember God has you in his hands. He will show you the direction you’re supposed to take. Trust him.
2. Ask for help if you need it. Talk to people in your church. It’s likely someone you know—or a friend of someone you know—has taken an overseas mission trip or served an overseas internship. If you’re not having any luck there, contact ICOM (317-539-4231) or email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. Stay organized. As I mentioned, you’ll need to devote a lot of time to planning for your trip. Keep in mind, you’ll also be talking to the organization with which you’ll be interning. Buy a journal early on and write down information you might need to remember later.
4. Get excited! You’re taking a huge step—get excited about it! Let the nerves and all of the unknowns roll off your back. Don’t let Satan get a foothold and keep you from the plan God has laid out for you.
5. Pack light. This may seem like a no-brainer, but I went to China with two massive suitcases and ended up donating at least 30 pounds of clothing to the people there because I bought too much during my stay! Take only what you need.