However you have come to serve, we believe everyone desires to participate in change, growth, and renewal in this world, experiencing God’s “shalom” that brings wholeness, reconciliation, and justice. But, ultimately, these things will not be the product of what we do, but rather how we do it.
The following 7 principles are our way at EM of prioritizing the approach and posture we take when serving on mission trips. Serving this way allows us to enjoy the journey, see God work in real-time, and love our neighbors authentically and whole-heartedly while remaining open to what is already present and what might be.
We choose to approach each opportunity for service and community involvement with open hands, letting go of our expectations (both intentional and unintentional) about what we think will happen. This includes everything from our desire to accomplish big things to our hope for how each personal interaction will play out. This is an act of humility that removes ourselves from the center of the story and allows our eyes to be open to all the unexpected ways God will move in and around us.
When we travel anywhere to serve others, we enter an established community of people as visitors and, hopefully, as welcome guests. As respectful guests, we choose to intentionally assimilate into a community’s overall function, pace of life, orientation to time, and way of doing things, rather than expecting the community to bend to what makes us comfortable. We show up eager to listen and learn from hosts, partner ministries, and local community members instead of asserting our own agenda or insisting on being the loudest in the room. This will come with a level of discomfort that we are willing to embrace. We see the difference in cultures as beautiful. Though something may be different, it is no less valuable. We will honor it, learn from it, and value the incredible God-breathed diversity of our world.
It is from a position of privilege that we are able to travel and serve in someone else’s community. We choose not to view this experience as transactional—to be consumed or checked off of our bucket list—but instead as an opportunity to learn, serve and grow while giving our time, attention, and resources to the work and ministry of local community partners and Experience Mission.
People are the most important part of every service experience. We will remind ourselves that every person we encounter is our equal, living a life as complex as our own, with hopes, dreams, giftings, mistakes, ambitions, sorrows, value, worth, and dignity. We will take time to be thoughtful about those we are serving and acknowledge our propensity to push people aside in order to be problem solvers. We will be curious and ask questions when we don’t understand and resist the urge to make a judgment and forge ahead on our own. Genuine human interaction will be our priority over the completion of a project or the expression of our ideas.
We acknowledge we do not “bring God” anywhere. We come with open hearts, to see, experience, and participate in the beautiful ways God is and has always been present. We remember that many communities have experienced historical trauma caused by Christian missionaries in the past. Because of this, we engage expressions of faith different from our own with respect and wonder, as opposed to judgment and correction. We tread sensitively when sharing our personal views about expressions of faith and theology (or our opinions about social issues and life in general), trusting that God is working in ways we may not always see clearly or understand.
As humans, we all have struggles. Some struggles are more visible than others—like poverty, lack of education, substance abuse, or living without a home—while others are hidden inside our hearts—like pride, greed, prejudice, apathy, or self-centeredness. By being transparent with the struggles present in all of us, we acknowledge no one is “better” or “worse”, but rather on an equal footing with each other. We all fall short of the life we were intended to live. Understanding our common human struggles allows us to learn and grow together, making space for God to bring hope and change in our lives through our honest interaction with one another.
We cherish the richness and diversity present in all of humanity, each of us bearing the “Imago Dei” (image of God) given to us by our creator. This compels us to see all people as God does—with compassion, empathy, and love—and makes it impossible to write people off, look the other way, or ignore injustice present in their lives. We let the truth of God’s love for all people in all places work in our hearts and cause us to seriously consider what it looks like to bring the Kingdom of God from heaven to earth.
Recognizing the Image of God in every human being forces us to elevate our view of humanity. All people matter and are worthy of love, respect, and embrace. Check out the videos below to learn more about how we keep people at the center of all of our service and learning opportunities.
Serving others can be an un-mooring experience. We are used to the way we operate in our daily lives—how we think, plan, and organize our schedule or to-do list. But when we willingly set these things aside to focus on others, we open the door to amazing possibilities. Click the resources below to help you see what that might look like for you.
EM’s Best Practices for Cross-Cultural Engagement
We encourage all volunteers to hold your expectations of what will happen while serving with open hands, ready and willing to shift and move in order to join what God is already doing in a specific place. But we also can’t deny that the great excitement we feel about what could come out of these experiences. (Coming soon: more resources exploring ways we can hold out hope for the future, however it may come.)
You must have a group size of at least 6 members to join this trip. Please view the Small Team trips or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.
For most trips, you must have a group size of at least 6 members. Please view the Small Teams tab on each Community page or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.