Corey had worked hard for three straight days on our churches mission trip to the Bahamas. After a day at All Saints Camp, a hospice for the disabled and dying, he was focused even more intently on making sure he stayed busy. I’ve seen this before. A normally bubbly kid, full of personality over the course of a few days on a mission trip shut down. “If only I had caught it sooner,” I thought.
Every mission trip exposes participants to something new. Especially when working in conditions of intense poverty the need for debriefing individuals and the team is essential. Without it individuals, even whole teams can walk through a mission trip week emotionally shut down, only focused on brick and mortar work possibly missing the rich experience of what God can teach through culture, people and struggle.
What is debriefing and how does it happen? Debriefing is simply making time to talk or write about what has just happened.
At Mission Discovery we three specific times during our work day to make debriefing a priority. First during our evening meeting we have a place we pause for what we call, “God Sightings.” The question is posed, “How did you see God today?” My experience is that this primes the pump for a second time of debriefing immediately following our evening meeting when teams break into small groups. We encourage groups leaders to continue the question in that smaller group setting.
Our third time of debriefing is each morning. We give each participant a devotional journal and ask them to take 15 minutes alone with God. During that time they read a devotional, a scripture for the day and are encouraged to write down their thoughts.
An often overlooked debriefing moment comes with the chance to sit with an individual and ask specific questions about how the trip is impacting them at the moment. The conversation may start with simple questions like, what do you see here that’s most different than back home? How is that difference impacting you? Simple questions that can lead to great conversations.
Most who lead trips know that a post trip debrief of the trip is so vital in detailing what God did and continues to do in the lives of those who served. One group has a picture party to help the team remember the trip then talks about the highlights.
Each trip has a “Corey.” When I had the chance to sit with Corey and explore the change in his personality I learned that working at the hospice had triggered some memories of a personal experience that he had never discussed with anyone. After we talked and prayed he said, “I wanna go back there one more time.”
If you are a trip leader or assistant, don’t miss this often forgotten debriefing opportunity-one to one, on the field.