When we decided to go to the Philippines in 1976, we were advised to take a short trip and see it firsthand before going there to start our ministry. Of course I would have liked to do this, but I wondered if it was worth the cost of going. I believe that it was one of the best investments the Lord has ever helped me to make. It was such a help in our deputation work that I urge every missionary to do the same.
A Survey Trip Is a Good Investment
One of the best investments you ever make as a missionary could be a planned visit to your field. The money you spend, which may be as much as several thousand dollars, will come back to you many times over. You can hardly afford not to go.
Perhaps you are thinking, “How can I go? I don’t have the money.” When I decided to take a survey trip, I only had a little money saved. I was also quitting my job so I could go on deputation full time. The only income we would have was from my wife’s job. God can and will supply your needs. He will also bless your wise investment.
Taking a Survey Trip Will Help When You Present Your Work
The thing that touches my heart when I hear missionaries speak is stories they tell about people who were saved and whose lives were changed as a result. People in churches will have a burden for your work if you can tell them about people you led to Christ while you went soulwinning on your visit to the field.
Taking a Survey Trip Will Help People Have Confidence in You
When we were on deputation, the preacher and people would often ask me if I had been to the Philippines. It gave me more confidence when I could tell them that I had been to the field and what the country was like. It also gave me personal experiences that I could share, and gave me a better idea of what I planned to do when we lived there permanently.
If you take a survey trip, many people will say to themselves, “This field must mean a great deal to him if he was willing to spend a lot of money and go over and look at the place before he begins his work.” They will also think, “He probably won’t wash out. He has been there and doesn’t seem to mind the living conditions. He even likes the people.”
Get a Passport and Visa
Ask your mission board or travel agent where to get a visa for the country you plan to visit. I went to the Philippine Embassy in Chicago. Today you can go to the Philippines for 21 days without a visa. It is usually very easy to get a temporary visa. Some countries don’t even require one.
Take a Camera
Take a lot of pictures. I suggest you take mostly pictures of people rather than scenery. You are going to the field to reach people for Christ, not scenery. Try to get close up shots of people and as many ministry type photos as possible.
When I went to the Philippines in May of 1976, I took too many clothes and books. I soon wished I had taken as little as possible. You will be less tired and will get more out of your trip if you don’t have to lug around a lot of extra weight. Besides, you will want to bring back some souvenirs from the country to use for your display table when you’re on deputation.
The earlier you plan your trip, the less pressure you will have as you get all the money you need, your visa, passport, vaccinations, etc. Planning early will also help the missionaries you visit on the field.
Write Missionaries to Ask if You Can Visit Them
Most missionaries are happy to fellowship with another Christian from America. Write missionaries as far in advance as possible. In that letter, ask if you may visit and if you may see their work while you are there. Try to visit three or four missionaries, and spend two or three days with each one.
You should try to survey at least three cities on this trip. When I took a survey trip, I wrote a few missionaries and pastors in the Philippines and asked their advice as to what city needed a church the most. When I arrived in the Philippines, they gave me their suggestions and I visited some of those cities. God used this to burden my heart for a particular one.
Get the Vaccinations You Need
Each country will differ on what shots are required to enter. Ask your travel agent, or go to the Health Department and find out what vaccines you need. For the Philippines, we were required to get a smallpox shot, and they suggested we get a cholera shot so we got both (the cholera shot hurts more than the disease).
This is part one of this article. Please click here to read part two.