Have you ever wondered how missionaries travel? Have you ever wondered about the process? Is it difficult? Are there ways to make it easier? If you or someone you know are interested in missions, there are a few practical things to know. International travel can be confusing. Add on the sensitivity of missions, and you may feel even more perplexed. You need to be as prepared as possible. For this reason, I will be helping you find the best option for you and your unique situation.
Why do missionaries travel? Missionaries travel because their role as a missionary is to go into a new culture and spread their faith to those who have never heard it. Often, cultures that are different from one’s native culture are in another country or even continent. This may affect how far and how frequently missionaries travel.
In this blog, I will be explaining why missionaries travel, and where missionaries travel. I have placed links for common mission travel agencies. I also give tips about international travel, what to know and what to be aware of before you leave for your trip. Lastly, I give practical ways to help you make the decision about where to travel.
Why Travel to be a Missionary
I often hear the question from other Christians, “Well aren’t we all missionaries?” The answer is, no. We are not all missionaries, even if we are Christians who share our faith. We can all be evangelists, disciple-makers, and spokespeople for the gospel if we so choose. However, we cannot all be missionaries, even if we do service projects and humanitarian aid.
This is not to discredit the work of other Christians. Rather, it is simply due to the definition of a missionary. “Missionary” indicates that someone has crossed a cultural barrier in their endeavor to spread the gospel of Christianity and aid in physical relief efforts.
This does mean that it is possible to be a missionary within one’s country. There is so much immigration occurring that many countries are becoming homes to different cultures than those that usually reside within them. Therefore, Christians can share their faith with these immigrants and be rightly noted as missionaries.
The main reason that missionaries travel is to respond to deep needs. Often, these needs are spiritual. Missionaries tend to go where the gospel has not been heard. They may also go where the gospel is available, yet no one has heard it in a way that is applicable.
In addition, missionaries go where the physical need is the greatest. Most mission work is done in impoverished areas where injustice, hopelessness, and helplessness on prevalent. MIssionaries go where there is no hope to bring hope. When they go, they give spiritual hope, as well as physical, mental, emotional, and relational hope.
They work to transform communities, societies, and even countries. The best places to transform are those that need transformation and won’t be able to attain it on their own.
Where do Missionaries Travel
As I stated earlier, missionaries tend to go where the gospel isn’t preached or understood. For this reason, many missionaries have been going to what is called the 10/40 window. The 10/40 window is an area that is the most unreached in the world. In these areas, Christianity is not prevalent. There may not even be Christians within the various people groups.
In addition to this spiritual lack, these countries tend to be third world. There is an immense tragedy occurring because of current religious beliefs, poor governmental leadership, greed, and generational poverty.
The 10/40 window isn’t the only place that missionaries travel. In fact, missionaries travel all across the world. There are missionaries being sent out of the West and into Eastern countries. At the same time, quite ironically, there are missionaries from the East being sent to the West.
Stereotypically, missionaries travel to unsocialized tribes in the tropics. While this might be true, missionaries travel much farther and intentionally than warm places with tribes. Certain organizations have worked to map out the world in relation to countries and continents that have the gospel.
Missionaries are being sent to and from nearly all the continents. They are sent to socialized and unsocialized places. Likewise, they go to modern or Westernized places, and places that don’t have electricity or running water. They may go where English is spoken primarily, or where it is not. Essentially, there is no limit to where a missionary can go. There is need all around the world, both spiritual and physical.
How do Missionaries Travel
Missionaries travel a variety of ways. This mainly depends on where they are going, and how long they will be there. Most commonly, missionaries will take airplanes. Once they land in the country of their choice, they may take a car, train, bus, boat, or foot.
Missionaries can also use helicopters when needed. In harder to reach areas, missionaries may have to use inland boats. They may even have to walk for miles. Traveling within a country may involve riding on horses, donkeys, camels, or the like. Most likely, missionaries will travel as locals do in the culture in which they reside.
There are various travel agencies to help you with international travel. There are basic travel agencies and mission travel agencies. You can also book your own personal flight through whichever airport you choose.
You may be wondering, do I have to go through a mission-specific agency? The answer is no. However, it may be helpful to keep all the details together. If you are new to mission travel, it may be helpful to have a community and organization that is familiar with it to help you. Likewise, if you are leading a group mission trip, it may be easier to go through an agency that can handle the major details.
Mission Travel Agencies
I have done some research on mission-specific agencies. Here is what I found.
Mission Travel is a Christian organization that helps missionaries with international travel. Their purpose is to provide a way for Christian missionaries to save time and money when it comes to traveling for mission trips. Missionary Travel serves YWAM, Young Life, Children of the Nation, Love Does, Church of the Nazarene, Rock Church, and Saddleback Church.
Golden Rule Travel is a similar organization that helps missionaries travel abroach for either short term or life. They also offer humanitarian travel and adoption travel. They have their main base in Oswego, KS, along with 6 other locations.
Additionally, there is Go Missionary Travel. In the same vein of purpose, this organization works to get wholesale prices on your behalf. This cuts down your cost of travel. This applies to individuals and groups.
The Mission Travel Association is available for members. Membership is open to the public and is easy to attain. Members receive full-service mission trips, discounts, additional resources, community, travel agency services, and trip coverage.
Fellowship Travel International allows booking up to 11 months in advance. Fellowship Travel commends itself for having agents that understand the sensitivity of international missionary travel. These agents have experience in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe & Latin America. They also provide travel to closed countries. If you are in need of last-minute flights for medical missions/disaster relief, this organization states its preparedness.
Ministry Travel is based out of Fortworth, TX. This organization also works with mission trips, adoption travel, group and individual travel. It has various packages that include itinerary planning tools, and deferred billing.
What to Know About International Travel
International can be a complex thing, especially if you are new to it. There are various things that you should be aware of before your trip. The more proactive you are, the more efficient and effective the transition will be. Here are some important things to know before you travel internationally.
- Be sure your Visa and Passport are up to date – The State Department advises renewal of passports no less than nine months before it’s set to expire. Furthermore, many countries require your passport to be valid for 6 months after your return date.
- Have your current vaccines and additional vaccines up to date – Many sicknesses and diseases are preventable through immunization. Missionaries can save themselves unnecessary health struggles if they are aware of what immunizations to renew and which ones to get in addition. At times, you cannot travel if your immunizations are not up to date.
- Check for travel warnings and advisories – These will notify travelers of any long term or short term issues in a specific place. this may impact safety or how certain things are maneuvered.
Other Important Information
- Purchase travel insurance – This isn’t always necessary but it can be extremely helpful in times of crisis.
- Make copies of travel documents – Make copies of your passport, visa, ID, and any other hotel reservations or important documents. Keep these in a separate spot than the original copies.
- Handle your finances – If you plan to bring your credit card, make sure you contact your bank and let them know where you will be and what you will be doing. Often, if your credit card is making transactions in another country, your bank will flag the use and freeze the card. This is to protect against fraud. Transfer your money to local currency or have a plan of how you will make purchases overseas. Don’t carry too much money with you at one time. This can be dangerous, especially in certain areas.
Additional Things to Keep in Mind
- Pack appropriately – Be aware of the culture you will be in. Dress modestly and appropriately for the culture. This pertains to both men and women. You don’t necessarily have to dress in the exact style of clothes that the natives wear. However, some cultures are specific about how much skin can show and what parts of the body must be covered.
- Fill all your prescriptions – If you have prescriptions, make sure you have enough in advance to last you the duration of your trip. Also, consider how you will keep your prescriptions since many of them are sensitive to heat and light exposure.
- Make sure other people know where you’re going – It is important that either family or friends know where you plan to travel. If there is an emergency, they will know who to contact and how to bring relief.
- Check the country’s entrance/exit fees – Some countries will have these fees. Fees can range anywhere from $20-$200.
- Check the voltage of your electronics – Some of your electronics may not work in certain countries because the power voltages are different.
- Activate your phone’s global capabilities – If you don’t activate global capabilities you could be charged extra.
- Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag – You never know what situation may arise where you need a clean outfit. You could lose your luggage. Something could spill on you. You could get sick and need a fresh pair of clothes. I’ve heard plenty of hilarious, yet serious stories where these extra clothes came in handy.
How to Choose Where to Travel
Choosing where to travel can be a difficult task. There are so many places with need. There are various factors that play into this. I believe there are various questions you can ask yourself. These questions will help you get a better understanding of where to go and where not to go. However, there is one thing that should always be done first: pray.
Start your entire decision-making process with prayer. Pray and ask God where He is leading you. It may become extremely clear after this step. For the times that it isn’t as clear, ask these questions. Ask yourself these questions. Ask God these questions in your prayer.
Practical Questions to Prayerfully Ask
- Are there any restrictions I should be aware of? These could be medical restrictions or safety restrictions. If you have a certain health condition you will have to find a place where you can maintain your health. If you do not have your health, you will not be able to minister to others.
- Are there other people that will be affected by my decision? This goes largely to those with family. If you have young children, you will want to go somewhere where you can care for them. God may be calling you and your family to a dangerous place. However, unless this is extremely clear, I would take precautions and choose a location that fits all members of your family. If your children or spouse have any particular needs that are crucial, you should choose a place where they can be cared for while doing ministry.
- How long do I plan to be there? The duration of the trip may be a factor. For example, if you have a certain health condition, you may be able to go short term in an area that you wouldn’t be able to sustain long term.
Deeper Questions to Prayerfully Ask
- Where is there the most need? There is need everywhere. Yet, there are places with greater need and less hope. If you have the opportunity to alleviate these needs, I encourage you to do so.
- Where hasn’t the gospel been preached? Surprisingly, the gospel has been preached in many third world countries. Studies show that missionaries tend to go where the gospel has already been preached. A large percentage of all money that goes to missions from the American church goes to areas that are already being developed physically and spiritually.
- What gifts and talents do I have? Are you a teacher? Go somewhere that needs education. Start a school or work within a school that needs teachers. Are you good at agriculture? Go somewhere that needs development in this area. Are you gifted in business? Go somewhere that has a lack of understanding and opportunity in the business aspect. Develop a community economically.
- What do I enjoy doing? How can I use this to glorify God? Chances are, if you enjoy doing something, you can use it for the glory of God. You can spread the Kingdom through your passions, and hobbies. These can open up opportunities for ministry that otherwise would be closed. These activities could also let you into a closed country.
Making the Decision
I have heard of people who have prayed and fasted and received supernatural direction that led them to a particular location. I have also heard of people who weren’t necessarily searching but God made it too clear for them to ignore. In addition, I have met people who didn’t experience either. When making a decision, you don’t need a sign in the sky to lead you. While it is true that God has worked in supernatural ways through scripture, that doesn’t mean He always does.
Practical questions to ask yourself can really help you make a decision. If you have the correct motives and you are open to God changing your plans, you are in a good place. Don’t allow the fear of the unknown keep you from stepping out to make disciples and to love others.