August 5, 2019 / Mission Trip Preparation / Source: Dana Cochran
SonLight Power mission trips have a profound impact on communities in Honduras, Haiti, Puerto Rico and other places we serve, but let’s not forget the other people deeply moved by the experience: our team members who volunteer their time.
As vessels sharing God’s love and light with those faced with energy poverty, SonLight Power mission trips bring devoted community members outside of their comfort zones to deliver a piece of comfort to those in need. A mission trip is enjoyable, eye opening, life changing, and at times, trying. To best process the trip and ensure continued personal growth, SonLight Power recommends all team members keep a personal journal to track their journey.
"We can find ourselves feeding on the experience that could cause us to miss the nourishment of wisdom through reflection." - Dana Cochran, Team Spiritual Care Leader
Upon arrival, new surroundings can create a sensory overload. Novel smells, sounds and sights flood your system, creating a wide-eyed sense of wonder. With so much newness, it’s easy to believe you’ll always be this receptive, a sponge soaking in everything around you.
But as you get used to your surroundings, the keen observation wanes a bit. This is the first reason to keep a journal. As you face those initial feelings, interactions and conversations, write them down. Try to record everything you see, smell, hear, taste and feel in detail, because some of the little details can make the biggest impact when reflecting later.
Throughout a trip, we encourage team members to continue their daily journaling practice. Record the moments of joy and use the journal to push through moments of struggle. Having a journal that wholeheartedly represents your experience is a beautiful reminder of why you chose to be a part of God’s mission, and it’s important to have a full picture to look back on after the trip.
At times it can be difficult to process all your emotions as you face them, so a thorough journal can help you take note of your reactions in the moment so that you’re able to properly digest and process later. Sometimes it takes writing events out to understand your true feelings. When writing is the chosen method of processing, all thoughts and feelings will be your own, without input from friends or family.
Top Tips for Journaling
Keep Your Journal Private
The journaling practice is meant for you – it serves as a reminder of your experience sharing God’s light. When you write with the intention of sharing your words with others, you begin to sensor yourself. While we encourage you to tell your stories to your loved ones at home, spark a discussion about your adventures instead of letting them read your private words. Use the journal to openly and honestly express your thoughts, emotions, questions and insights, knowing the only eye that will see them belong to you and to God.
There is no wrong way to make a journal; find a style that works for you and keep at it. Whether you prefer stream of consciousness, bullet points, drawings, narratives, chronological order or another method that speaks to you, write in a way that makes your heart happy. Write in order or in chaos; write in any tone or style. You may write a letter to your future self or to God, or you may write poems inspired by your day. But write often and be consistent in the style you choose. Journaling once per day can be a stretch on top of a morning devotional and a packed schedule around the clock, but we find making it a steady daily habit is the most effective way to keep an accurate account.
As soon as you’ve set down your pen, take a few moments to quiet your heart and mind, and ask God if there is anything He would like to say. If He speaks to you, write down His message, and consider His impact as a further way to reflect in the moment.
Days, weeks and months after your trip has ended, memories of your time will begin to fade. Maybe you remember the hard moments more than those filled with joy, or just the laughs and forget the struggles – your journal will allow you to remember the experience in its true and full form. Looking back on your journal is a wonderful reminder of why you decided to serve underprivileged communities through God, and it can help you grow in your own journey of personal development.
Many SonLight Power mission team members end their trips feeling blessed beyond expectation. They’ve had the opportunity to bring the gift of light to the world’s most vulnerable communities, acting as beacons of God’s love.
Through these trips they know that God is by their side, helping them, pushing them, teaching them, guiding them. Journaling allows participants to record their experiences, deeply process what the mission means to them, and reflect and remember for their lives going forward.