In June of 2001, my wife and I embarked on our survey trip. I had never flown on an airliner before. I had never had a passport. I guess it goes without saying that I was out of my element. I did not really know the missionaries we were going to see. I had read their prayer letters and had heard them speak in my church, but I did not have a relationship with these people.
I can remember as we flew over the Sahara Desert watching out of the window of that airliner as the desert sands changed to the savannah of northern Ivory Coast and then to the lush green forest of the south. I knew that God had called me to West Africa, and I was so excited about getting to see that country for the first time. As I write these words, tears are once again streaming down my face as I remember how I got goose bumps on the back of my neck as we made our final approach into Abidjan. I could see millions of people going about their daily lives, and I knew that God had called me to reach those people with the gospel in your place.
Here are four of the eight reasons I am so glad that my wife and I went on a survey trip.
1. The survey trip increased our urgency to get to the field.
While on our survey trip, we were able to visit a village near the church where we would be working during our first term. We went on a walking tour of that village. We met the village chief, and he asked us how soon we would be coming to his village to start a church. We were ready to call all of the churches we were scheduled to be in on deputation and tell them that we were not going to return to the States and that they should prayerfully consider taking us on for support. We did not do that; I am so glad we were able to do deputation and build relationships with our supporters.
2. The survey trip increased our desire to learn the language of the people.
I love to talk to people! Using an interrupter (better known as an interpreter) really cramped my style. There were so many stories I wanted to tell and so many stories that I wanted to learn, but I could not because I did not understand the language. I determined right then that no matter what I was going to learn to communicate with the people.
3. The survey trip allowed us to get to know the missionaries with whom we would be working.
It is so important that we as missionaries get along. I have seen how problems between missionaries have undone years of labor. Most missionaries are very opinionated and are always ready to defend their position. I am so glad that I was able to see this first hand and learn that the method is not a point of contention. The message is what we should be focusing on.
4. The survey trip allowed us to develop a plan for our first term.
While on our survey trip, my wife and I took a lot of notes, and we discussed opportunities we saw. Then, we were able to discuss these opportunities with the veteran missionaries who were on site. This allowed us to have a “game plan” that we could present to our prospective supporters as we traveled on deputation. We had already done some traveling before we went on the survey trip, and I saw a huge advantage in being able to tell the churches what we planned on doing in our first term after we had been on the survey trip.
This is just the first article in a two part series. In the next article, we will continue this discussion with four more reasons I am glad that I was privileged to take a survey trip.
What is one thing you wish you would have done on your survey trip? I value your input on this subject! Please join in the conversation in the comments section below.