We’ve all been there: the “camp high.” We come off of an incredible experience - a week at camp, a retreat weekend, a mission trip - feeling like a new person. We commit to new ways of thinking, of acting, of treating others, of relating to God. These commitments typically last a couple of weeks and almost inevitable go by the wayside within a month.
So how can you and your group take your mission trip home with you and make those commitments last? Here are four suggestions:
1. Pick one thing. You may have lots of commitments you want to make, and that’s great! But it’s hard to keep track of too many things, and you’re more likely to lose track of all of them. Pick one thing you most want to commit to and make that your focus. Be sure to make it specific so you can easily track your progress and stay committed (“Spend 4 hours per week doing volunteer work” or “Learn the name of the homeless man I walk by on my way to work every day and spend a few minutes talking with him each day” are better than “Serve more” or “Treat people better”). If it’s hard to narrow it down to one thing, make a list and work on one per month. This way, you can work on building habits and add onto those habits each month.
2. Talk about it. Share your experiences with people back home. Talk about the people you met, the service you did, and the things you learned. Talk about the changes you plan to make in your life. Tell as many people as you can! You might even want to have the group share about the things they’ve learned and the commitments they’ve made in church when you return. Sharing with as many people as will listen creates a huge network of people who will be able to hold you accountable, and increases the chances that you’ll stay committed. To take it one step further, pick a few people - close friends, family, mentors, etc. - and ask them to follow up with you every now and then.
3. Pray about it. No matter how hard we strive, we can’t do our best work on our own. We need God’s help to make lasting and meaningful change in our lives and the lives of those around us. Pray continually about the things you’ve learned and the commitment you’ve made. When you feel like you’re doing well, pray about it. When you feel yourself struggling or slipping, pray about it. When you’re reminiscing about your trip, pray about it. When you don’t know what else to do, pray about it. Accept that you need God’s help, and ask for it daily.
4. Keep a journal. This one requires a bit of forethought, but it’s worth it! Bring a journal with you on your mission trip and take some time to journal each day. Write about what you did, who you met, what you learned. Write about the good and the bad. Write about the things that impacted you and the things you want to remember. Then, when you get home, you’ll have something to look back on when you need a reminder.
- Jessie Palmatier, CSM San Francisco Bay Area Apprentice