In 2004 CHAP International took its very first missions team from the states to Liberia, Africa. It was a monumental trip for CHAP as we also filled out the necessary paperwork to become an NGO in Liberia and even secured office space in Monrovia.
A lot has changed since 2004 and 2013 is setting up to be an incredible trip for this years missions team. In June we will make our first trip to Liberia without Founder Stan Weaver. With an experienced and seasoned leadership team there is no doubt in my mind that we will continue on the path that Stan paved for us. We cannot say thank you enough to Stan Weaver for his heart, dedication, passion, and fearlessness to chase after all that God has called him to do through CHAP and in his own life!
This year's trip is only a week long. Although it is short and sweet it is vital as an organization for us to make annual trips to Liberia. We hope to increase the number of trips in the future God willing. It allows for our stateside staff and our Liberian staff to fellowship and build on our relationships. Spending time with our friends in Liberia is a major highlight of the trip! It is also an opportunity to invite individuals who may have never gone on a missions trip or never traveled to Africa to experience a trip of a lifetime!!
This year we are excited an honored to have three individuals who have never been to Liberia, Africa to travel with us! At the same time we have three team members who will be making their 4th trip, one making his 3rd trip, and another making her 2nd trip. So we are a well balanced team!
As the saying goes in Africa, "TIA." You never truly know what to expect until you are on the ground running. The planning that goes into a trip like this is extensive. Support raising, applying for visas, getting the necessary shots, creating an agenda, preparing the groundwork in Liberia, prepping the stateside team, purchasing plane tickets. We are around 2 1/2 months away from our departure and the planning is intensifying.
As a semi-seasoned traveler to Liberia, Africa I want to offer 5 tips for an incredible missions trip. This can also apply to any short-term missions trip:
1. Bring a good camera and keep a journal!: It can be a pain in the butt to lug your camera around but capturing this experience through pictures and videos is something you will always cherish. For me showcasing the beautiful faces of the kids on my wall also keeps me grounded throughout the year and reminds me of why I love traveling to Liberia. It is all about those kids! You will experience an array of emotions and some incredible moments. Being able to write about my day every night on the trip is a great way to document my time.
2. Expect the unexpected: Your comfort zone is going to be shattered. My first trip to Liberia in 2009 I had NO clue what I was getting myself into. After nearly a day of travel from Newark, NJ to Brussels to the Ivory Coast and finally to Liberia we got to our compound in Monrovia around 9:00 PM. After a brief nap we were up at 4 AM to make a drive out into the bush to Kanweakan, Liberia where we would be staying for the week. All we were told is that it would be "roughly" a 12 hour trip. Little did we know 17 hours later through truck swallowing mud roads we finally made it to River Gee. It was pitch black in the middle of nowhere as we gathered our stuff from the trucks into this tiny motel. The bucket showers and monkey meat defined my time in the bush.
3. Prepare your heart, mind, & body: There is no doubt in my mind that God is going to wreck you in one way or another. Prepare your heart for God to do it. Allow God to have his way with you, whatever that may look like. Like I mentioned before there are going to be challenges and unexpected circumstances. Pray that God will prepare you ahead of time for those challenges so that when the time comes you will be ready. Study up on Liberia or wherever you are going. The culture, their history, the language, the food, the economy, the politics. Read books, ask people who have been there, watch documentaries. I knew nothing about Liberia in 2009. Through my time there and the desire to know more about the country and people I have slowly become more educated on Liberia. Preparing the body requires getting the necessary shots and medications, as well as making sure you are healthy and fit to travel. Traveling overseas will takes its toll on you. If travelers insurance is not covered in your trip costs I would highly suggest getting it.
4. Embrace the culture: Stepping outside of your comfort zone does not just mean getting on that plane, it is a continuing process on the trip. There are going to be circumstances and experiences that make you uncomfortable. My advice is to push through it. I am not an overly outgoing person outside of my family so I am not always comfortable in social settings. Now add in the language barrier and it can be even more challenging. On my last trip in 2012 I had the privilege of visiting a dear friends house in Liberia and meeting his family. Liberians can be very private and guarded but once they let you in you are essentially like family to them. It was a treasured moment for me. I can guarantee that you will experience food that you have never tried before. Embrace it and remember to respect their culture. This does not mean to put yourself in harms way but be willing to live as a Liberian or wherever you may be.
5. Start everyday out as a team in prayer and in your bible!: This may seem like a no brainer on a missions trip but as in life it is amazing how quickly we get distracted. We are so focused on our "mission" at hand that we forget to let God lead. On all of our trips we wake up early and spend at least a half hour in the word and in prayer as a team. Satan hates what we are doing and the spiritual warfare always seems to intensify on these type of trips. It is vital to prepare your hearts as a team to go out and serve and make an impact for the kingdom. If you are not following God's will and purpose for the trip it is pointless. Pray for your mission for that day, for team members individually, for the team as a whole, for the country, for the people to see and hear the love of Jesus in all that you do, and for the kids that you will be impacting. The missions trip is not for show, not for self, but for the glory Jesus Christ and for saving the lost and helping the hurting. Remember that.
So as we prepare for our June 8th trip I am excited to see what God is going to do! Pray for CHAP International and for our June 2013 team that God will do amazing things in and through us. If you would like to join future trips email us to find out how! Or if you would like to donate or support our June missions team