Even if you don’t consider yourself a prolific writer, the practice of putting your thoughts down with pen and paper is powerful and transformative — especially during a trip abroad. It forces you to probe the deepest places of your heart and mind and ask tough questions. It gives you the freedom to be raw and real. It captures your thoughts and feelings, allowing you to revisit them long after you’ve returned home. If you struggle to communicate in writing or are simply looking for some fresh ideas, here are a few writing prompts to guide you through your time abroad.
Before the trip
You don’t have to wait until you leave the country to see God move. In what ways have you seen God’s hand in your preparation for this trip? In what ways has He opened doors to make your trip possible? How has He provided for your team financially? What has He been speaking to your heart as you pray and seek His will for your time of ministry?
What are you hoping to learn from your time abroad? What ways do you think you will be challenged and pushed out of your comfort zone? How do you hope to be transformed? What are you praying for and expecting God to do? Write down your expectations for your trip and then return to them when you come home to see how your questions and prayers have been answered.
During the trip
Write down your very first impressions from your arrival. You’ll probably be feeling a little jet-lagged and travel-weary. Those first sights, smells and sounds will fade fast from your memory if you don’t write them down right away. What was the first thing you saw when you left the airport? What did you notice as you gazed out the window of your bus or van?
Keep track of the places you go, the people you meet, and things you do every day. This can be a brief summary, but will be extremely helpful later when the details of the trip begin to get foggy with time.
What is that Scripture verse you’ve heard a thousand times that suddenly has a fresh meaning? What are you learning about the heart of God and His passion for people? In what ways is your perspective shifting?
We have a tendency to forget the things God has done. Even the children of Israel struggled to remember the miraculous ways the Lord had provided, protected and delivered them. Write down the ways you see God moving. Share them with your team and your church back home.
A defining moment is an experience that affects you so strongly that it can reshape who you are and where you are going. It can be a moment when God calls you into long-term ministry or an experience where He challenges you to deepen your faith in Him. Put that moment into words and continue to ask the Lord to transform you through that experience.
After the trip
The culture shock of returning home is sometimes said to be even stronger than that of arriving in a foreign country. This is called “reverse culture shock”. Depending on where you traveled, you may find yourself extremely upset with the materialism or comfortable lifestyles at home. You may be frustrated that friends and family back home do not take as great of an interest in your stories or experiences as you had expected. You have changed and things at home are pretty much the same. These feelings are completely natural. Use your journal to sort through them and help you process the things you’ve experienced when others do not understand.
It can be common for travelers returning home from a ministry trip to want to make major life decisions immediately upon return. Journaling through these decisions before making them is a great way to help you walk through them with wisdom. Next steps will look a little different for each member of your team. Some may feel prompted to make a giving commitment to your host missionaries. Some may be called to go again in a short or long-term capacity. Everyone will have a reignited passion to reach people both abroad and at home. Seek the Lord’s direction for your next steps and write down the things He places on your heart.