When my outreach location was revealed for my Discipleship Training School, I panicked for a second.
We were scheduled to go to Papua New Guinea (PNG) for two months, and at that time we weren’t sure how much time we would spend on our ship, the m/v Pacific Link, or on land in a possibly remote location. At that point in my life, the only missions trips I had gone to were in first-world European countries. Showers were guaranteed, bedding was provided, and there was always a washing machine close by for your clothes.
This wasn’t guaranteed to be the case for our trip to PNG. We were more sure of the fact that there might not be consistent amenities than the possibility that there would be.
Looking ahead to Papua New Guinea, because we weren’t sure how long we were going to be on the ship or on land, we were told to pack for any occurrence. I followed the recommendations of my outreach leaders and friends who had gone to the country beforehand to see what would be good to bring with me, and what I could leave at home. Due to the airline restrictions we only had about 33lbs. (or 15kg) of weight allowed for our luggage. Packing efficiently and light was key. Here are a few things I brought with me that I’m glad I did.
No matter where you are in the jungle, a rural area, or even on a ship, there’s bound to be two sturdy objects you can tie a hammock to. This can provide either a place to sleep elevated above the hard floor, or just a place to unwind and recharge yourself after a long day of ministry. Make sure you’re allowed to hang your hammock in the place you’re eyeing – what may seem sturdy to you could possibly be more shaky than you realize.
2. Mosquito net
Aside from the fact that a good net will save you from potentially getting sick due to the nasty little buggers that fly amok in the night, a mosquito net will let you sleep peacefully knowing that the phantom itch you feel is just that – a phantom. Sleeping in a mosquito net will bring you a peace of mind that is just as valuable as the protection your body will receive from any biting bug in my opinion.
3. Baby wipes
Sometimes the place you are staying in doesn’t have a shower like you might be used to. Sometimes there won’t be a shower at all. Baby wipes bring the fun of a sponge bath to the table, ensuring that you at least don’t smell as bad as you did before, as well as providing a quick way to clean off your hands before you sit down to a meal – who knows where those have been?
4. Sturdy shoes for multiple environments
When I was volunteering on the Pacific Link, we visited several islands in the East Sepik province of PNG. In order to reach the people, we would anchor off the coast and then ride zodiacs and little banana boats to the shore. We would then have to climb off the little boats and carry our gear through knee deep water to bridge the last little bit of distance.
It became very clear very quickly that I needed to pack a pair of shoes in my bag, and wear the ones that would dry easily. We would wade through the water and then change into our dry closed-toed shoes after we reached land. This would ensure that we wouldn’t get gross feet by standing in water-logged shoes all day, as well as making sure that we were still well protected in case we needed to hike further inland to where our clinics were going to be.
5. Cheap t-shirts that you don’t mind throwing away
When we were prepping for outreach, a good friend of mine recommended I head to the department store and buy a 6 pack of those basic t-shirts that come in the little package. Between those shirts and a YWAM Ships polo, I had enough shirts to make it through a week (possibly longer) without needing to do laundry. Sweat, ocean water, dirt, random liquids, these shirts went through the wringer when we were in PNG.
After we left the country and were back at our home base, it took me all of ten seconds to throw those shirts in the trash and be done with them. I wasn’t worried about keeping those shirts nice or anything, and so I could be fully involved with our daily activities without a worry of something irreversibly staining or damaging my clothes.
A lot of things can happen on outreach. It can feel like a nonstop whirlwind from start to finish and before you know it, you’re on the plane back home. A journal is a great way to keep track of what you’re doing on a day to day level, as well as what God is doing through you and your team. Once outreach is over you can look back and see how God moved in ways you didn’t even realize in the moment. It’s also handy to have in case you need scratch paper and pen during the day!
7. Refillable water bottle
We would be out in the heat all day working and a refillable water bottle saved me many a time from dehydrating. Instead of just going for a plastic one and not having enough water in there to get me through a morning, I had a 40oz insulated stainless steel bottle that I could fill up a couple times a day easily.
I enjoyed how durable my bottle was. I didn’t have to worry if it got dropped or dirty, and it was so handy to always have a quick drink within reach. No midnight searches for a cup of water with this guy.
8. Hiking backpack
We didn’t do any strenuous hiking on my outreach, besides when we would travel to a clinic, but having a hiking backpack for all my things was perfect. Before outreach I had wondered if I should just bring my little rolling carry-on suitcase, and I was a little worried on how well that would work.
I’m so glad I chose to use a hiking backpack. The places we went and the environments we were in would have beat up my little suitcase and I would have ended up carrying it everywhere we went anyways. Having everything on my back securely strapped down made switching locations that much easier.
No matter what your outreach looks like, there’s bound to be someone who has gone there before. Ask them for any tips and tricks they have for packing, what they wish they would have brought – and what they wish they would have left at home. Being prepared as much as you can physically for outreach will allow you to focus 100% on what God is wanting to do through you and your team instead of worrying that you only have one clean shirt left and four days until you can wash your stinky clothes.
By Brooke McCown
Port YWAM Kona Communications Staff