Go on a missionary trip

Aug 13, 2009 at 12:51 p.m. ET

To quote Mark Twain, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness." Going on a mission trip is one of the most adventurous ways to give back. It allows you to see different parts of the world while doing something worthwhile. Missions can be anything from short-term volunteerism vacations to extended experiences. Both are equally beneficial to the cause. Find a trip program that matches your abilities, spiritual beliefs, personality, talent and calling. And not all mission trips have a religious undertone, so don't feel like you can't participate if you have different views.

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The benefits of mission trips are many, for both recipients and participants. If you're thinking about going on a mission trip, be prepared for an extremely rewarding and challenging experience that brings about personal growth.

Doing your research

Find an organization that has already been tested -- a program that has been around for some time or that your friends or colleagues have experienced. Get their feedback. Did they find the experience worthwhile? Was it what the organization had advertised? Did they feel safe? Did they feel like the group actually gave back to the community?

twoConsider the organization's background and goals. Does it have a statement of faith? Is it in line with your beliefs? How does the organization handle its finances? What costs, if any, are you expected to cover? Is the organization registered with tax authorities for non-profit status? These are all important points that you'll want to understand before you dedicate yourself to the cause.

threePay close attention to the role you're expected to play during the mission. Find out why the mission organization is interested in having you along for the ride, and figure out how you can best contribute during your time.

fourLook into the organization's crisis management system. Ask organizers how they handle a crisis such as a member's hospitalization. What is their policy on paying legal fees should you end up in a difficult situation? Though incidents are rare, they can happen. Knowing about the organization's policies will help ensure a safer, more enjoyable experience.

fiveResearch mission programs offered by your church, community center or other trusted entity. Starting with a list of approved organizations with which they've worked is one of the best ways to go. Do some of your own research online, too. Several websites are dedicated to mission programs for different types of people.