Your on-you bag (usually a travel wallet/pouch) is what holds your most important items as you travel. These items should pretty much never leave your body during your trip. Seriously. Let’s face it . . . We’re all human and prone to losing items, especially as we travel. (How many times have you accidentally left your cell phone charger in a hotel room?) Losing your phone charger won’t ruin your trip. But losing your passport? Well, that’s a much larger hiccup. Below you’ll find the items you should include in your on-you bag.

  1. PASSPORT This is your single most important item while traveling!
  2. DRIVER’S LICENSE Bring your driver’s license. You may be asked to present multiple forms of identification during your trip.
  3. AIRLINE TICKETS . . . Unless you plan on swimming.
  4. TRAVEL VISA A visa is what allows you to stay in a country for a specific amount of time. Depending on the country, sometimes you need to get the visa before you travel and sometimes you get the visa upon arriving at your destination (and some countries have no visa requirements at all).
  5. VACCINATION CERTIFICATE Some countries ask to see your vaccination certificate (usually a yellow booklet that you receive when you get a vaccination) upon entry. Pack this with you just in case they ask for it!
  6. DEBIT CARD Some of the most remote corners of the world have ATM machines. If your mission trip hits any financial bumps along the way, accessing cash quickly using your debit card can be helpful. However, you don’t want to add unneeded stress to your trip by losing your debit card, so be sure to keep it in your on-you bag.
  7. CASH A $20 bill can buy everything from a taxi ride to basic medical treatment, to souvenirs.
  8. Tip: Carry about $20 worth of local currency as well, for the same reason. Carrying both US currency and the local currency will keep your bases covered, no matter who you’re dealing with.


If we’re honest with ourselves, sometimes we have ulterior motives for going on a mission trip. We want to travel. We want to get to know a certain guy or girl. We want to feel good about ourselves. We want to look like a better Christian when we get back.

But there’s a bigger purpose for your trip. Answer the following questions honestly, and avoid the tendency to just skim over them. Answering the questions below will help focus your mind and heart on the true purpose of your trip.

1) What are some of the reasons I am serving on this trip?

2) Do I have any ulterior motives for going on this mission trip? What are they?

3) Based on my current motives, if I left on my trip today, what would be my primary focus throughout the trip?

4) How might the community I’m traveling to feel about my current motives?

5) How might God feel about these motives?

6) What is the primary purpose of the trip?

7) What should I be focusing on?

8) What do I need to do to genuinely align my focus with the true purpose of the trip?

Being proactive is the best way to stay safe during your international mission trip. Don’t wait until a dangerous situation comes up. Do these 5 things now and you’ll be better positioned to have a safe mission trip abroad.

1) Write down important phone numbers

If you’re in a pinch, dialing 911 probably won’t work (911 is a North American emergency number). It’s important to have local emergency numbers handy in case anything ever happens. Check out this chart of emergency numbers from around the world on Wikipedia.

In addition to local emergency numbers, you should also have these numbers handy throughout your mission trip:

  • Your trip leader’s international cell number
  • US Embassy’s phone number
  • Hotel/hostel phone number where you’re staying

Even if you’re not planning on bringing a cell phone with you during your trip, keep these numbers with you at all times. If something happens, you can always borrow a phone to make a call.

2) Set up a Google Alert to stay informed on local news

Do you know if there’s been any local unrest in the region you’re visiting? Do you know of any political issues that are impacting the country? This type of information is helpful because it will keep you aware and alert to what’s happening around you.

By staying on top of local news, you’ll also know which issues to talk about and which ones to avoid while interacting with locals.

You can easily stay informed by setting up a Google Alert. Type in the country, region, or city that you’re visiting, and then select how often you want to receive an alert. Setting up an alert a couple of weeks or months before your trip means that you’ll be up-to-date on the country you’re visiting by the time you step off the plane.

3) Sign up for STEP

STEP stands for Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP is an alert system provided by the U.S. Department of State designed to keep international travelers informed and protectedin case there’s ever an emergency or safety issue.

In addition to keeping you informed with email or text alerts, the local U.S. Embassy will be prepared to contact you if there’s ever an issue, from civil unrest to family emergencies.

You can sign up for STEP right here.

4) Download the “First Aid by American Red Cross” App

Being safe means being ready for a lot more than just a huge emergency. It’s important to be ready for some of the smaller issues too, like if you hit your hand with a hammer or trip over a two-by-four.

This first aid app opens up to a great list of common first aid situations (bleeding, burns, ankle sprains, etc.). Clicking on a situation brings up step by step instructions and a video on how to address the problem. All of the instructions and videos work offline and are simple to follow! (Pro Tip: Carry a first aid kit in your backpack so that you can quickly treat any injury.)

Download: iOS | Android

5) Give a copy of your itinerary to your family

Your itinerary should include information like what flights you’re taking, hotel/hostel information, and a brief description of where you’ll be each day during your trip (for example, “serving in the Carbinlina village” or “souvenir shopping in downtown Rio de Janeiro”). Include important phone numbers and contact information in your itinerary, too.

Your itinerary will give family an idea of where you’ll be throughout your trip. If there’s an emergency at home or if you have any problems while you’re abroad, an itinerary will give family a jumpstart in contacting or locating you.

Don’t worry

Staying safe on your mission trip is important, but it’s nothing that you need to spend time worrying about. Chances are, your mission trip will happen without any issues at all. However, doing these 5 quick things will help ensure that in the rare instance that something does happen, you’ll be prepared.

Imagine that someone from another country meets you at school or work today. He finds you during your lunch break and immediately starts talking to you. His English isn’t great, but you eventually figure out that he’s trying to tell you about Jesus and that you need forgiveness for your sins. …All while you’re eating a turkey sandwich. Most awkward lunch break ever?

Sometimes this is what evangelism feels like to locals when we’re on our mission trip. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Follow these practical steps and you will not only avoid an awkward situation, but you will also be more likely to see your evangelism efforts pay off.

1) Lead with your actions

The first step in practical evangelism is to focus on your team’s work project. Whether it’s painting a schoolhouse, digging a well, rebuilding an orphanage, or something else, leading with your actions shows the locals that you care.

There’s an old saying that’s especially true for evangelism: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When it comes to mission trips, we need to lead with actions, not our mouths. This shows the locals how much we care about them.

2) Start a relationship

You’ve been working hard rebuilding an orphanage all morning, and now it’s time to take a break and hang out with some locals. But wait! Don’t spill your faith guts out yet. Just start a friendship. Find a local (maybe someone that looks close to you in age) and get to know him or her.

Remember, life-changing conversations rarely happen right after, “Hey, what’s your name?” So, don’t feel bad if the conversation is surface-level at this point.

3) Ask real questions

Maybe you’re a few days into your mission trip and you’re getting to know a few locals pretty well. Now, it’s time to spill your faith guts! Just kidding. But it is time to dive a little deeper. What’s their family life like? What personal challenges are they facing? What do they hope for their future? The goal is to feel comfortable asking “real” questions after hanging out with him or her for a couple of days.

4) Offer to pray

After you’ve had a more “real” conversation, a great next step is to offer to pray. Maybe they are going through a tough family situation. Maybe they are concerned about a drought that is killing their crops. Whatever it is, offering to pray over the situation is usually an easy way to share your faith without feeling awkward or being confrontational.

5) Hang out often

Continue to hang out with the locals you have connected with throughout the trip. Continue to ask real questions, offer to pray, and if it feels appropriate, share your testimony. The more you hang out, the more likely you will be to find yourself in a situation to genuinely (not awkwardly) share your faith.

6) Have realistic expectations

You may not see a local’s spiritual life completely change during the week you’re abroad. Is it possible for a local turn their life to Christ after just one conversation with you? Absolutely! However, it’s more likely that the conversations you have will be “seeds”that God will grow slowly over time.

It’s really personal

Each step in this evangelism process is really personal. That’s because talking about faith and choosing to follow Christ is the most personal thing a person will ever do. Because it’s so personal, your evangelism is more likely to have an impact if you focus on having these conversations with just a couple of people, not 200 people.

If you follow these six steps, you will be on your way to having effective (not awkward) conversations about Jesus with others.


  • FIRST-AID KIT At some point during your trip, your toe is going to get run over by a beverage cart, your finger is going to get hit by a hammer, or your pants are going to get ripped. Being prepared with a small first-aid kit will help you brush off the pain (or stress) of the moment, and keep your day moving. You don’t need a huge kit. Some bandages, disinfectant, and some safety pins will take care of most issues.
  • FLASHLIGHT OR HEADLAMP Keep a flashlight or headlamp in your backpack throughout your entire trip, especially if you’re traveling to a developing country. Electricity in many parts of the world can be intermittent, and having a light source nearby when the power goes out can be a huge convenience.
  • DISINFECTANT WIPES Disinfectant wipes are great for sanitizing when sinks and soap are not available (like right before lunch while you’re out in the community).
  • Tip: Use wipes instead of bottled hand sanitizer. You can get pretty dirty on a mission trip, especially if you’re working outdoors. Hand sanitizer will sanitize you just fine, but it doesn’t wipe the dirt away. Wipes will not only sanitize your hands but also wipe away dirt and grime, keeping your PB&J sandwich free from dirt smudges.
  • INSECT REPELLENT In many parts of the world, mosquitoes and other insects can cause serious issues and carry diseases. Insect repellent will not only help keep the nuisances away but also reduce the chance that you’re exposed to an insect-borne disease. Apply insect repellent early in the day and often.
  • Tip: Use a spray with 30% DEET, not 100% DEET. Both amounts have the same level of insect repellent power. Here’s the difference: Spray with 30% DEET will last about 4 hours, and spray with 100% DEET will last about 12 hours. While 12 hours of protection sounds better than 4, DEET can be unhealthy for the body in high concentrations. The CDC has determined that 30% DEET is a safe concentration level for both children and adults.
  • SUNSCREEN Applying sunscreen throughout your trip is a great idea, especially if you’re traveling closer to the equator, where the sun’s rays are more intense. Even if you’re traveling to a region where sunburn doesn’t seem like a real risk, if you’re working outdoors at all, just go ahead and apply sunscreen. Unless you work outside on a regular basis, your body is not used to the prolonged sun exposure outdoors.
  • SUITCASE  These are the items that you need to access in the morning and in the evening during your mission trip. The key to this part of the packing system is to avoid overpacking. And the key to avoiding overpacking is to keep the “what if” questions in your head get the best of you. “What if it gets really cold?” “What if my shoes are uncomfortable?” Pack for the big what-ifs, and don’t sweat the small ones. You’ll be able to navigate around the smaller situations during the trip.