10 Things You Need To Know Before Going On A Medical Missions Trip

10 Things You Need To Know Before Going On A Medical Missions Trip

Thinking about joining one of our medical mission teams? GREAT! 

Medical missions trips are transformational experiences for all involved. Serving others changes the hearts of the servants and those being served but being prepared is ESSENTIAL to making a difference. We’ve compiled this list of things you need to know before going on a medical missions trip to help you make a lasting impact. 

Here are 10 things you need to know before going on a medical mission trip:

  1. Communicating will take more time.

Depending on where you are headed globally, you will most likely be embedded in communities that speak languages that you are not fluent in. This does not mean you have to learn another language before you can join a medical mission trip, but it does mean you need to have is to be aware and to have translators readily available. Patience is also needed because communicating through a translator takes more time than two people fluent in the same language. You will not be able to serve the community well if you cannot communicate effectively with one another. Clear communication is essential to helping people with their health needs

  1. Be flexible and willing to adapt to unfamiliar conditions.

You are traveling outside of the United States to places that are in need of proper healthcare. Sometimes, other amenities that you are used to will not be available either. In other communities they’re available, but look radically different than what you are used to. You won’t be able to spend every night in a 5 star air conditioned room, familiar food, a hot shower, etc. but that’s part of why these trips are so transformational. Access to clean drinking water may be limited. For example, 60% of Tanzania’s households have water from a protected source as of 2012, so you will most likely have access, but when we travel to remote areas access may be limited. 

  1. Expect limited supplies and access to equipment.

The number of physicians is not the only thing lacking in the under served communities we travel to. Supplies and access to medical equipment can also be quite scarce. We bring as many supplies and medications as possible to supplement what is available locally.  As a team member you can find out what equipment and supplies will be available, and count on bringing most of what you need! Specialized dressings, medications, and sutures are often the first supplies gathered. (Remember, if you plan to bring medical equipment, it will require a heavy-duty electrical converter to work outside of the US).

  1. Loosen your grip on the plan and relax the schedule.

In the United States, medical clinics and hospitals often have rigid schedules, and it’s expected for people to abide by a plan. Other countries are much more go-with-the-flow. Out teams have an agenda and loose schedule, but we are also committed to being flexible and serving people whenever they show up. Things can also be highly unpredictable due to the environment not always being stable or reliable, so one must be flexible with any plans that are made. Leave your rigid, timely mindset in the states and choose to be adaptable.

  1. Be ready to try new foods!

The type of food you are used to eating will not be accessible on a medical missions trip. It’s important to be grateful and humble when trying new foods. You will like some foods you try and others you won’t. Before going on a medical mission’s trip, branch out and try different foods that are common in the communities you will be visiting. Be prepared to say “yes” to what is offered to you. If you have special dietary needs be sure to talk with your team leader early in the process so that adaptations can be discussed. Staying hydrated and well nourished is going to be crucial to your ability to show up and care for people well. Your patients deserve good care from someone who is reliable and alert.


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  1. Take time before you leave to preparre your mind, body, and soul.

Medical missions trips take a lot of preparation. You will need to take the time to raise money for the supplies you need and then gather those supplies as well. You will want to do research on the types of health concerns you will likely face as some you may be seeing for the first time. All overseas missions trips also require certain vaccinations before entering the country (go to https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel to find out what vaccinations are required for each country and tips for staying healthy abroad). Traveling overseas also requires getting your passport and other important travel documents which can take several months. Make sure you prepare in advance so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute.

  1. Pack everything.

Packing “light” or “minimally”  is not the best idea because you may not be able to buy the supplies you need in most places. If you are not sure what to pack for every scenario, check with your team leader. They are experienced travelers who can advise you what to pack and what to leave behind. We wrote an entire post about what to bring. You can read it here! 

  1. Fundraising is essential.

Unless you have been saving up for the trip’s cost, you may need to raise funds ASAP. Cash is good but donations of medical supplies can also make a huge impact. Reaching out to pharmaceutical companies, clinics, hospitals, and local medical related businesses to gather the necessary donations for your trip. This is a great way for family and friends to support you if they’re unable to join you for the trip. You can invite them to securely donate online here. This is one of those rare exceptions where more is more. It’s our goal to take enough supplies that we can leave resources behind for local physicians and clinics. It’s much easier for us to bring the supplies with us than it will ever be to ship things into the country after we leave. Check with your team leader to find out what the specific needs are for your trip! 

  1. Recognize and honor cultural differences without judging.

When heading into uncharted territory, you may find yourself surprised at the differences that surround you. Remember, we are intentionally traveling to under served areas so you will likely see hospitals and clinics in poor condition. Physicians are usually well trained in conditions they see most often but they can be limited by inadequate access to technology, medication, and cutting edge training. Also, health care, dental care, health education, and nutrition education are highly needed, and medical specialists should know that the lack of knowledge in these areas makes it difficult to approach patients in the same way. Read our list of book recommendations here to help you prepare for diverse cultural experience you’re about to have! 

  1. Education is critical to long term health maintenance.

Because of the limited access to medical care, educating our patients is key to helping them stay healthy long term! There will be limited opportunities for costly, time consuming follow-up appointments, so be prepared to educate patients for preventative care and after-care. Allowing time to ask questions and really listening to their concerns will greatly improve their long term prognosis. Your team leader will help you know what is encouraged and what behaviors to avoid.

I hope this list of 10 things you need to know before going on a medical mission trip has inspired you to say “YES” to this opportunity.

I’ve been doing this for over a decade and it’s not always easy, but it’s always rewarding. 

There are lots of things to learn before, during, and after you serve on a medical mission trip, but don’t let that scare you! It’s still one of the best ways to create major change in the lives of people with little to no access to medical care.

See you in the mission field!

Sheri Postma, RN
Founder & CEO
Mission Partners for Christ


Why Medical Missions Trips Are Worth the Cost

Why Medical Missions Trips Are Worth the Cost

If you’ve ever looked into going on a medical mission trip, you’ve probably wondered if the cost participants pay is worth it. The costs may be higher than other types of mission trips, but so are the benefits.

hopeWhen you join a medical missions team, it’s normal for participants to pay for flights, accommodations, and food during the trip. Most organizations (but not us!) also ask participants to pay extra to cover the supplies needed to conduct medical exams or to leave with the patients.

But despite those expenses, the potential impact of medical mission trips is huge.

Here are three key reasons why medical missions trips are worth the cost:

  1. Medical mission trips provide additional training for students outside of the regular classroom.

There are so many things that cannot be taught within the walls of a classroom. Some of the first people to sign-up for medical missions opportunities are students because they can finally use their knowledge in a situation that isn’t hypothetical. Students can not only see the global healthcare needs up close but also serve through hands-on experiences that make a difference! Now, this isn’t to say that volunteers should use a medical missions trip to experiment or put patients at risk by doing more than they’re trained to do. It’s simply an opportunity to experience more and serve those in need.

  1. Medical mission trips can create long term transformations in the communities we serve.

The key to long term impact from short-term medical missions trips is to develop lasting relationships with the communities we want to serve. Long term relationships can be challenging to develop during a 1-2 week trip so It’s essential to partner with a local organization that’s already embedded in the community and will stay connected long after our medical missions team returns to the US.

Of course, we also know that sharing the message of Jesus can immediately transform lives, and it’s always our goal to  change lives spiritually and physically.

  1. Healthcare professionals can further develop their skills.

Certain diseases and conditions that we encounter on our trips are less common in the US. For example, thousands of people in Tanzania test positive for malaria each year but it’s rare for patients in the US to present with malaria in most clinics or hospital settings. Treating people with these conditions expands the providers experience and helps lower the negative impact these conditions have on both the individual and the community.

Setting up temporary health clinics in rural underserved areas presents unique challenges for the team. Working through translators in unfamiliar cultures will also stretch our team members while building new skills and self-confidence. 

So yes, joining a medical missions trip is not cheap, but the potential impact to both the medical team and the people we serve makes it more than worth the financial investment.

And when it comes down to it, what price would you put on offering life-saving preventions and interventions to people in need? Medical missions trips are always worth the cost.

Thinking about joining a trip but not sure how to pay for it? There are lots of creative ways to raise money such as crowdfunding and fundraising opportunities.  Click here to learn about a few of our favorite ways to raise funds for your medical missions trip or click here to get more information about upcoming trips!

A Packing List For Medical Missions Trips

A Packing List For Medical Missions Trips

Packing for an overseas mission trip is much different than packing for an extravagant tour across Europe.

You must think about the conditions of the area you are visiting and realize that you can’t purchase supplies when you arrive, so it’s necessary to bring everything along! Plus, your purpose in attending a medical mission’s trip is to volunteer your time. Therefore, you aren’t left with much time to shop for what you forgot back home. You will be working rain or shine, hot or cold, so you must be prepared for all circumstances. Travel to a third-world country can be comparable to camping, so think like a camper, and you’ll be golden!

Also, it’s common to leave much of what you bring behind.

The communities you will work with need those items much more than you do, so pack items you don’t mind letting go and maybe a little extra to give as gifts!

Here is a comprehensive list of what to pack for your medical mission’s trip:

Bring On You

This part of the list includes the most important things you need to carry attached to you — the things you absolutely don’t want to lose or forget. This can be kept in a small purse or a pouch attached to your belt or waist. Attaching these things to you ensures they will not get lost!

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Photo ID
  • Currency/Debit card
  • Trip itinerary
  • Flight tickets
  • Hotel confirmation
  • Immunization records
  • Cell-phone
  • List of important phone numbers

Bring In Carry-On

Checked baggage always has a chance of getting lost or being riffled through upon arrival. I remember going overseas and having the crew at the baggage claim go through my checked luggage only to poke holes in ALL of my instant oatmeal packets. Every piece of clothing was covered in powdery oats. To avoid this issue, keep any “explosive” items like food and toiletries in your carry-on.

  • Backup copies of important documents
  • Solar power charger
  • Laptop and charger
  • Camera
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • One change of clothes
  • Toiletry kit (make sure all toiletries meet TSA size requirements)
  • Sunglasses
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight/headlamp
  • Insect repellant
  • Antibacterial wipes
  • Journal and pen
  • Malaria pills
  • Other important personal medications
  • Travel Converter/Adapter

Bring In Suitcase

There’s no telling what your journey will be like once you land. You may have an easy drive to your destination or may have to carry your luggage a long distance. Make sure to pack your supplies in easy to transport luggage with TSA approved luggage tags. This will make luggage transportation a breeze and decrease the chances of your luggage disappearing.

  • Water purifier/tablets
  • Snacks (non-perishable)
  • Daypack with waterproof cover
  • Mosquito net
  • Ziploc bags
  • Bilingual dictionary
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Rainboots
  • Raincoat
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Flip flops
  • Gloves (both for warmth and for medical purposes)
  • Sun hat/ visor/ bandana
  • Base/mid/top layers
  • Pants or long skirts
  • Short/long sleeve shirts
  • Scrubs
  • Medical supplies (specific for trip)
  • Gifts for families and children (stickers, toiletry items, crayons, etc.)

Though it looks like a long list, each item listed is important and should be considered when you’re packing for your next mission trip!

Showing up prepared will take the focus off your own needs and put the focus on those you are there to serve.


See you in the mission field!

Sheri Postma, RN
Founder & CEO
Mission Partners for Christ

3 Things That Happen On Medical Mission Trips

3 Things That Happen On Medical Mission Trips

Have you ever wondered why people join medical mission teams?

Or perhaps you’re wondering what encourages people to leave the comforts of their home and pay thousands of dollars to fly across the ocean to a place that doesn’t provide relaxing beaches or an all-inclusive resort? Why would anyone take valuable vacation time to visit the poverty of a third-world country? To answer these questions, one must learn what happens on medical mission trips.

Here are three powerful things you can expect to happen on a medical mission trip:

  1. Transformation

The people served on medical mission’s trips are not given the healthcare they need or deserve. Volunteers travel to give free health screenings and treatment that are long overdue.  In the process of healing those in need and saving lives, a transformation happens — one that is deep and lasting for all involved. When people’s physical needs are met, they can open themselves up to their spiritual needs. Even Jesus himself healed and fed his followers before He shared the gospel. He knew the importance of meeting people where they were at and fully providing for their needs. His impact would have been far less effective if He had let the weak and weary remain sick and impaired. Jesus was about a transformation from the inside out, and that is the same goal of a medical mission’s trip.

The volunteers often experience a transformation as well. To step out of their fast-paced, self-indulgent world into a place of selfless serving often wrecks the heart of the volunteers.

Team members can’t return with the same worldview because their lens has expanded and includes a new culture and the faces of beautiful people across the ocean.

  1. Education

One of the biggest struggles within a third-world country is the lack of education in preventative care. The people there are in survival mode more often than we could imagine, but that doesn’t mean they know how to prevent health problems. They don’t want to become ill or have physical pain, but they don’t know much about prevention or how to seek the healing they so desperately need. Part of a medical mission’s trip is to provide education such as how to eat healthily and the importance of clean water. Other education tips include safe sex practices and proper first aid care.

Volunteers also receive education by experiencing a new culture and providing medical care with few resources.

  1. Connection

Looking into the eyes of those who are desperate for healing, it’s hard not to feel a pull and attachment. Medical mission’s trips are an experience that connects the souls of the patients and the caregivers. Not all patients can be helped in the capacities they deserve, but all are given the best care possible given the circumstances.

The stories shared, education received, and transformation both in body and spirit all form a lasting connection that often keeps volunteers coming back again and again.

See you in the mission field!

Sheri Postma, RN
Founder & CEO
Mission Partners for Christ

8 Books To Read Before A Medical Mission Trip

8 Books To Read Before A Medical Mission Trip

You find yourself called to a medical missions trip, but you want to make sure you are prepared and equipped before you find yourself overwhelmed and in over your head. You may have all the medical knowledge needed, but what about spiritual knowledge? A great way to prepare before you leave on your trip is to not only prepare your heart but to prepare your mind with these eight book suggestions to read before your medical mission’s trip!

  1. Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence by: David Livermore

Although many are involved in short-term missions experiences all around the world, there’s always improvements to be made to the approach and practice of missions trips. Many times we want to bring our culture to other places in the world instead of bringing Christ and adapting to the culture that’s already there. This book will help the reader to serve with cultural sensitivity and intelligence.

  1. Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by: Duane Elmer

When the author went around the world asking what people thought about missionaries, the response showed him that Christian missionaries came across less than humble. In fact, they came across arrogant. Obviously, this approach was hurting their impact. Actions that were meant to be loving instead came across as pretentious and superior. In his book, Elmer gives advice about how to serve with humility and avoid misunderstanding other cultures. To serve effectively around the globe, read this book before your next mission’s trip.

  1. Multicultural Manners: Essential Rules of Etiquette for the 21st Century by: Norine Dresser

When traveling overseas, you will quickly learn that it’s not easy to understand the etiquette of a new cultural. This book will help address appropriate interactions around the world when it comes to greeting one another, hand signals that mean different things globally, and how to avoid embarrassment with each new interaction. This book is informative and will give you the courage you need to approach a culturally different community respectfully.

  1. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself. by: Steve Corbett, Brian Fikker

Donations and handouts are typically our response to poverty. It helps us feel as if we are making an impact without having to get our hands dirty. But what if our handouts and donations were fueling the problem? Poverty is complex and deserves consideration to truly alleviate the problem. Those in poverty need empowerment and ways to sustain themselves rather than relying on those around them. Sustainable change must happen from the inside out. This book will give you a new perspective on how to help alleviate poverty in ways that are long lasting!

  1. Medical Missions: Get Ready, Get Set, Go! by: Bruce Steffes

This book recognizes that medical missions are different than other short-term mission trips. Practicing medicine in areas with very little supplies in conditions that are less than ideal is difficult. This book will help those involved in medical missions trips know what to expect and receive tips on how to be more effective! Read the stories about the author’s personal experiences and feel more prepared with his advice and insights. This is a must-read book that can also be slipped into your pocket to take with you for encouragement on the field!

  1. Let the Nations Be Glad!: The Supremacy of God in Missions by: John Piper

This book gives readers a biblical basis for missions, why it’s important for the expansion of the Gospel, and the importance to reach all nations! Preparing for a medical missions trip requires the understanding of the spiritual mission as well. Read this book to be ready for the spiritual work!

  1. Preach and Heal: A Biblical Model for Missions by: Charles Fielding

This book teaches why it’s important to both preach and heal. If you don’t meet the physical needs of a person, how can you expect he/she to accept the spiritual need? It’s important not to walk away from healing while leaving a person spiritually dry. Ministry must be balanced to be effective.

Preparing yourself for your medical missions trip is essential. Choose a few books from this list, and watch yourself benefit from the knowledge and preparation before your big adventure!

See you in the mission field!

Sheri Postma, RN
Founder & CEO
Mission Partners for Christ