Fingers twiddle. Hearts race. Lumps form in throats. Suitcases fill up. Passports are pulled out of hiding. It is almost time.
And you can hear it, can’t you? The countdown? You’ve prayed about it, you’ve weighed the pros and cons, you’ve consulted your loved ones, you’ve looked at maps and you’ve listened to missionaries….and now it is time to take the exciting plunge into Short-Term Mission Work. Maybe you feel like Monkeynaut Bob in Monkeys on Mars: A Fable for Missionaries: knowing that you want to go on this trip but trying to review your purpose in the adventure. Maybe you feel like Monkeynaut Skip: excited about sharing your culture and understanding with those of another world view. Or maybe you’ll admit to feeling like Monkeynaut Dave: going along for the ride and not necessarily tripping over himself to get to the spacecraft.
But whatever your feelings please let me first encourage you in this way: you are doing a good thing. God is moving in this world. His kingdom is growing in parts of the world you have never been, or some places of which you have never, ever heard. His great arm is touching the nations, speaking to them in ways you may never comprehend. He is desperate to move His Created into a deeper relationship with Him. You are one of those. You accepted His great arm and embraced Him. Now you are commissioned to go and you are going.
But it is time for pre-launch mission preparation. It’s time to check the engines, test-run the mechanics, process your cargo, and make sure that your vessel is "space-worthy." Its time for a "test orbit." Not unlike a trip to outer space, mission trips need focused preparation, even if it is a short-term trip. There are some who believe that all we need to do is just go! Yes, trips have been done that way – where the only serious planning was to get the plane tickets and make sure everyone has their passport or needed shots. Those trips can be fruitful, but honestly, they are mainly rewarding for the ones who are going, not necessarily the people who they are going to serve.
Charles Plumb was forced to ponder the time and preparation the sailor had spent in the depths of a ship carefully folding the cloth of each chute. Did he realize that each time he did so, he held the fate of someone he did not know? Today Plumb challenges his audiences with the question, “Who is packing your chute?” He also reminds us that we all need many kinds of parachutes. We need mental, emotional and spiritual parachutes as well. While a prisoner of war, Plumb called on all of these supports before reaching safety. Are you prepared to pack these chutes in your suitcase or carry-on? Are you prepared for pre-launch?
In March of 2000 the maker of the Zenit 3-SL booster rocket, which had a disastrous takeoff from a platform in the Pacific, had to publicize that it was an error in the pre-launch sequence that had caused the failure. How embarrassing. We don’t want the mission goals your own team has laid out to be unsuccessful because there was faulty planning, do we? Of course, that is why you are reading this blog. You want to cover all your bases. You know you’re not going to be perfect or know everything before you go; but you want to do the best you can to be aware of what is ahead of you, not to mention to be ready for challenges to your flexibility and your world view.
“World view?” you may be thinking. “What on earth is that?” Let me tell you, it is one of the most important elements of your trip. You may already have a good idea of what I mean, but let me go ahead and explain it like this. Not too unlike a collection of stuffed animals or coins or baseball cards, your world view is a collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by each human being (or sometimes a group of people). It is the overall perspective from which a person observes and understands the world. Each person looks at this collection of bits and pieces and through them develops a certain way to look at things. As noted, it is called world view.
And it is a great place to start.
 Plumb, Charlie. “Packing Parachutes,” in Insights Into Excellence. Executive Books: Harrisburg, PA, 1995.