Several months ago, I had a conversation with my sister about returning from and processing short term mission trips. She had just returned from a summer internship in Papua New Guinea, and her team did an exercise which involved writing down questions they wanted others to ask them when they arrived home.
What a valuable tool! So often returning short termers struggle to express to others what their time overseas was like—and so often friends and family on the welcoming committee struggle to know how to relate to the returner. (I speak from experience on both ends.) Yet a solid conversation with someone fresh off a short term trip can be invaluable. It helps the missionary process experiences, and it gives the listener insight into what God is doing around the world and in the heart of their friend/family member.
In light of a recent short term medical mission team’s visit and with the knowledge that countless short term teams will depart and return this summer, I put together a list of questions for people returning short term trips (I’ve included the list my sister & her team created last year).
The questions are geared toward trips spanning one to six weeks. I’ve divided the questions based on topic, though some topics are more appropriate for those whose terms were longer. Without further ado, here is the list:
- Can I see your pictures and hear about them?
- What was one unexpected aspect of your trip?
- What were some of your expectations going into the trip? How were they met?
- What was learning another language like? What kind of difficulties did it present?
- What was a typical day like?
- What exceeded your expectations?
- What is something you didn’t expect to learn while you were overseas?
- Did you learn any new skills?
- How were you stretched in ways you didn’t expect?
- What was a challenging part of your trip?
- Tell me about the food you ate.
- What did you learn about yourself?
- What was a rewarding or fulfilling part of your trip?
- Tell me about any fears you faced.
- What verse really stuck with you or was significant and why?
- How has your time in _____ shaped your perception of God?
- What has changed in your future goals, values, and desires as a result of what has happened/what God has said to you while in _____?
- What did you learn about God and His character?
- Did you experience a greater awareness of spiritual warfare?
- What is one major thing God taught you?
- How did you see God as Provider?
- Tell me about one person you met who caused you to think differently about something.
- What was your team dynamic like?
- What were your relationships with the nationals like?
- What was one rewarding/challenging aspect of working with the missionaries?
- What was one rewarding/challenging aspect of working with the locals?
- Tell me about someone you will or want to keep in touch with in _____.
- What is something about the culture in ____ that rubbed you the wrong way and why?
- What kind of healthy ways did you learn to deal with anxiety and culture shock?
- What is the quickest thing you got used to that is different from the States?
- What’s something you really like about ____ culture?
- What did you learn about _____ culture?
- Did you break any cultural norms?
- What was surprising about the culture?
- How are you adjusting to being back in the States in light of all you experienced?
- How can I help alleviate some of the reverse culture shock?
- What emotions are you experiencing as you return?
- What do you miss about _____?
- How can I best support you during this transition?
- What’s difficult about being back in the U.S.?
- Who has been most helpful in the re-entry process? What have they done that's been helpful?
- Are there things about U.S. culture that rub you the wrong way after being away?
- How do you want your experiences to change your everyday life? What are practical ways we can work to ensure those changes last?
That’s all I've got. Go find a returning short termer, share a meal or get a hot cup of coffee, and find a good spot to talk. Happy conversations!!
Feel free to add to this list in the comments:
What is the best question someone's asked you after a short term trip?
What do you wish someone had asked you?