As you’re preparing to go on outreach, whether it’s your very first or the latest in your repertoire, there’s a couple different things you should keep in mind. We can talk for ages about packing tips, what to bring and what not to. Or discuss the pros and cons of flying with different airlines. However, as important as these things can be to know, it’s just as important – if not more – to have some other things on your radar as well. You’re going to make it through outreach no matter what, so why not try and go in as prepared both mentally and spiritually, as well as physically, as you can.
Something that might come as a no-brainer is the thought of being constantly expectant for God to move. We all have big hopes, dreams, and expectations for what He will do on outreach. But once we get into the day-to-day life, dealing with a different culture than your own, being tired, dirty, hungry at times, or even when your team members are getting on your very last nerve, keeping your eyes open for the move of God can be hard.
My youth pastor at home called it, “serving with your eyes up.” That whatever the task, if we were ministering in a street or helping distribute medical supplies, we needed to keep our spiritual “eyes” up and focused on where God could move. If we keep our heads down and focus just on the task or schedule at hand, we can often turn to a selfish or inward perspective and fixate on what we think we need at the moment.
We could daydream about that great nap we want to take later, the sandwich in our backpack begging to be eaten, or long for just a single quiet moment by yourself. While being aware of our needs is hugely important, if you don’t take care of your physical body you won’t be able to serve as well as you could, we need to remember that we are not the focus of this moment.
It’s all about how God can work through us, not how well we can do a physical task. If we start to look inward and get overwhelmed with all the things that we want or would like, we can start missing the things happening right in front of us. We might miss an opportunity to pray for a young mom, or form a friendship with a teen who’s on the outskirts of the group, or even just laugh and play with a little kid. These seemingly small things can turn into amazing “Only God” stories that can be the highlight of your outreach.
During the lecture phase of your DTS, you probably have been getting (or already were) really diligent about spending time alone with God. Reading your Bible, praying, sitting and listening to worship music, these are all things that have become a pattern in your day. None of us go into outreach ever expecting that we might slip one day and forget to read our Bible or pray or spend time in worship, but it’s an unexpected slope that can be easy to slide down.
You might keep up with your routine for several days or even weeks on the field, but one night your team is up super late bonding and waking up the next morning is a beast, so why not take that extra thirty minutes you usually read and devote it to more shut-eye? Or, your team sure spends a lot of time worshipping and praying together during meetings, why do you need to do that again when you could shower and goof-off instead? These things aren’t inherently bad, it’s important that you’re sleeping and showering (your team will thank you) and hanging out together. The problems can come in when you start to rely on other people’s faith or your own strength to get you through the day.
Our time in Papua New Guinea required everything of me. We were spending long days in the sun helping run medical clinics, teaching in churches, and other evangelical ministries. I spent a lot of time thinking about God during the day, but I could always, always tell a difference in my attitude from the days when I would read the Bible and spend time with Him as opposed to the days when I prefer myself a little more and put Him off.
Outreach was a daily exercise in coming to the end of my strength and ability to function and reaching out and relying on Him to fill in the rest. When I was freshly filled with His Word and time with Him, that transition felt like nothing at all, because I started the day relying on Him and being refreshed by Him first thing in the morning.
When I neglected that, I would spend the day drawing from yesterday’s strength – which was nonexistent at that point – and then crash and burn the rest of the time. I would be cranky, selfish, and not very Christ-like in times of stress or when plans would unexpectedly change, instead of being patient, loving, and full of grace.
Staying diligent with your own personal quiet time with God, however that looks, is crucial for surviving through and, more importantly, thriving in outreach.
For my outreach, we were in the beautiful nation of Papua New Guinea. This is a country known as “The land of the unexpected.” Many times we would spend Saturday working out a plan for church services the next morning, deciding who would speak and on what, who was leading worship, and what our time of ministry at the end would look like. We would wake up Sunday morning and get ready to go and be met with the news that we would be joining with another DTS team and needed to combine services, or that we were only given about 15 minutes to speak, or even that we were simply honored guests and weren’t expected to do anything but sit in service and participate that way.
Flexibility on those mornings was paramount. We needed to be able to take changes in stride and be patient, loving, and full of grace for everyone involved. Sometimes we would prepare a morning of ministry at a local elementary school, which involved candy for the kids, acting out Bible stories, and having a time for playing games. We would then arrive to the school and see that it was canceled for the day because of the weather.
We would then have to regroup and reassess our day while we were on our way to our replacement ministry opportunity – which was a massive time of street evangelism. We would be assigning testimonies and short sermons to people in the car over while our musically inclined team members would be working out a worship set to start off our time.
No matter if you’re going to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, or an industrial city in Europe, plans are going to change. Times will be moved around, people won’t show up like they promised, the weather will cancel a big event, and any of these things could give you a reason to grumble or complain. It’s so important though to have grace; grace for your leaders, for your teammates, for your ministry contacts. Sometimes the biggest moves of God can come through when all of your other plans fall apart.
Packing light is a two-fold priority for outreach. You definitely don’t need a thousand pounds of your favorite comforts with you while you’re gone, you can probably leave those at your home base. But you also don’t need to go into the field with baggage relating to your team members or anything else.
There’s a high possibility that on your outreach team there might be a few personalities that just don’t mesh well with yours. That’s expected. Everyone on your team is human, and humans aren’t perfect and we are all different. You might have already clashed with these people, or even just decided in your heart that you can’t work with them. This is unnecessary baggage that will drag you down on outreach (and in life in general.)
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Before you leave on outreach, make sure that you have made every effort to live in peace with everyone on your team – not just the ones you like. Resolve conflict, get your leaders involved, go first in forgiveness, acceptance, or whatever you need to do to “clear the air”.
If you leave and things are still not great between you guys, outreach is only going to exacerbate the problems. Y’all will be pushed to your very limit – which is great and you grow so much from it – but your patience could be stretched past what you can handle within your own strength with those people.
Get your leaders involved, take it to God, pursue peace with everyone. You’ll be amazed at how much lighter you’ll feel once you get rid of the “baggage” dragging you down!
Keeping these things in your heart and on your list of priorities to do while you’re gone on outreach can be crucial. Having the right preparation before you go can either make or break your outreach; if you’re ready and willing to see the move of God in and through your teammates, then you will! Be willing to be stretched past your comfort zone and spend two months doing entirely new things. Once you’re out there the only thought that will be going through your head is, “There’s no place I’d rather be!”
By Brooke Everheart
Port YWAM Kona Communications Staff