Trip Purpose & Goals
Each mission trip is designed to expose people to needs around the world and intentional evangelism while assisting our Field Partners as they serve and help with caring for the needs of the local communities.
Benefits for field partners and the less fortunate
- For all those who follow Christ, we have a biblical mandate to go to all nations and make disciples. We also have clear instructions to assist the poor, the widowed and the orphaned. Therefore, participation in short-term trips is in alignment with our calling.
- There are urgent physical and spiritual needs around the world. Through our field partners, volunteers are able to make a real difference in the lives of those who are materially, socially and sometimes physically less fortunate. We do this in obedience to the biblical command to love our neighbors.
- There are urgent physical and spiritual needs here at home. Short-term service in a different context provides deeper insight and motivation for assisting the less fortunate in our own communities.
- Participants not only have the opportunity to sharpen and invest in others on the team, but also to support and encourage our field partners. Lasting relationships are often developed, providing ongoing accountability and inspiration.
Benefits for participants
- Reel Life trips provide an excellent opportunity for spiritual growth and personal development.
- Volunteers are able to spend time focusing outwardly rather than inwardly. In doing so, meaningful life perspectives are gained.
- Trips provide an opportunity for participants to “sharpen the saw.” Several days away from the busyness and distractions of everyday life allows for a time of renewal and an opportunity to examine the direction and course of our lives.
- The lives of volunteers are enriched, enabling us to live more intentionally and effectively upon returning home.
Ultimately, our time away is an investment in the kingdom as well as an investment in ourselves.
- The specific needs of our Field Partners.
- Resources and abilities of the local community.
- Strengths and abilities of the team.
While your team may or may not have a daily itinerary until you arrive, your presence and willingness to help will be a great encouragement. You will likely spend time helping with ongoing construction projects, providing humanitarian aid, and spending time building relationships with locals. The following are examples of the type of work teams have typically done in the past:
- Ministry, evangelism and church services
- Orphan ministry
- Vacation Bible Schools and other educational programs
- Literature distribution
- Medical fairs and food distribution
- Sports ministry
- Painting or construction projects
All forms and documents should be submitted in physical form or scanned and submitted via email. Payment deadlines vary based on specific trip requirements, therefore please refer to your specific trip for deadline information on the Upcoming Trips page. Registration begins anytime after a trip is announced on our website, until the trip is marked “closed” and the signup form is no longer available. Some trips can have participants sign up very close to the time of departure, and others must be registered for a few months in advance. Always refer back to the specific Trip Page.
- Submit Trip Signup Form online. You can fill it out on a printed hardcopy if you prefer: download it here
- Field Partner Forms depend on your specific trip. Refer to your trip page, or ask your Team Leader if you do not have these yet. Please note that these forms may include information that is similar to the RLI forms as our Field Partners may need similar releases and agreements signed.
- Passport – A color copy of your passport that is legible must be submitted. If you do not have a passport, please give your Team Leader your social security number, and let them know where you are on your application process. Be sure to check the expiration dates of passports for each traveler to make sure passports will be valid during the entire trip and for up to 6 months after the trip. For more information, see Passport.
- Base trip cost deposit is due to secure your spot. This deposit is non-refundable. For more information, see Deposit or Changes & Cancellations.
Make a Payment Now:
60 Days Before Travel:
- 50% of Trip Cost is due.
- Vaccinations should be taken care of. Check with your doctor to see if any vaccinations are required or recommended for you and for the country you are traveling to.
30+ Days Before Travel:
- Trip Balance is due.
RLI staff will review to confirm that all paperwork is accurately and fully completed and ensure that digital copies are kept as precautionary back up. Copies of all forms are provided to the Team Leader to be kept with the team during travel.
- Please submit all paperwork, document copies and payments directly to Reel Life International.
- Please either scan and email, or mail photocopies directly to email@example.com or P.O. Box 661105, Birmingham, AL 35266
- Please do not mail originals.
- You may also submit forms and paperwork to an RLI Staff person or your Team Leader in person.
- You can register for a trip until all available spots have been filled, or until the final deadline to add a team member has passed. The Host for each trip determines final deadlines.
- If anything has not arrived, or is missing for any reason, please personally notify your Team Leader to let them know why your documents are missing.
The following registration information will be sent to you by an RLI staff member and/or your Team Leader, and will change from trip to trip depending on requirements imposed by the airline, travel agent or Field Partner. A lot of this information can be found on the Trip Page for your specific trip which can be found through our Upcoming Trips page.
- Dates of Trip
- Registration and payment due dates
- Late fee penalties if applicable
- Total cost of the trip (usually $1,000 plus airfare)
- Paperwork and additional information that the Field Partners need from you
- Packing Checklist & Dress Standards
- Country & contact info for your specific trip
RLI will coordinate travel, accommodations, and all activities, providing each traveler with a detailed itinerary and information packet prior to travel. This information will include estimated cost, packing list, and contact information. Trips are typically scheduled at least 3-6 months in advance, so there is plenty of time to plan and prepare for an incredible adventure!
Every person traveling internationally is required to have a passport regardless of age. Team members should apply for a passport immediately upon registering for a trip if they do not already have one. Please allow at least 4-6 weeks after applying (although it may be received in as little as 2 weeks if extra money is paid for a rush order). If you are not a US citizen, you may also need to apply for a VISA. Passports are good for 10 years (good for 5 years for those age 15 and under). Most countries require that a passport will be valid for 6 months after entering the country. If your passport is expiring, renew it before the trip.
Information about how to apply for a new passport or renew an existing passport can be found online at www.travel.state.gov/passport
Please do not wait until the last minute!
Make two copies of your passport. Keep one copy in your luggage in a separate location for backup proof in case your passport is lost or stolen. Turn in the second copy to Reel Life. You may either mail a photocopy to the Reel Life post office address, or it may be scanned and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please check with your airline for specific guidelines at the time of travel. For carry-on restrictions, please refer to this page on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website. Typically, each person will be allowed one or two checked bags of 50 lbs. each, one carry-on suitcase and one small personal item. Extra baggage fees can be expensive and are your responsibility. Please look up your specific airline’s luggage regulations online once you have received your itinerary, and you may want to re-check this closer to the time of departure. We often ask that you pack personal items in only one checked bag, and allow the other checked bag to be used for team supplies when necessary. This will be coordinated on a per team basis. If receipts are kept, additional baggage fees can be reimbursed by RLI if an RLI staff member or Team Leader is not present to pay for the additional team bag. Keep in mind that you will be required to handle your own luggage, so don’t take more than you can manage. RLI is not responsible for your personal baggage fees, however if you raise excess funds, you may submit receipts for reimbursement for your travel expenses (please view Financial Matters for more details).
Please note that razor blades, files, nail clippers, tweezers and aerosol cans will not be allowed in your carry on because of security reasons.
Arrangements for lodging will be made through RLI and our Field Partners and is included in your trip cost. Our teams typically experience modest but comfortable housing. While teams probably could stay at a local resort, the experience is much more meaningful when we are able to sacrifice these kinds of luxuries during our stay. Lodging may vary depending on worksite locations, availability and what the safest option for the team will be. It may be a dorm style room or an inexpensive hotel, depending on the Field Partners’ preferred method of hosting teams.
Prices quoted for trips are estimates only and may change slightly up or down due to circumstances beyond our control.
Checks – Made payable to Reel Life International, designated for your trip, by placing your name, trip location and dates on a separate, accompanying piece of paper and mailed to:
Reel Life International
PO Box 661105
Birmingham, AL 35266
Cash Donations – Please contact us if someone gives you cash as a donation towards your trip. Please do not send cash through the mail. Convert it to a personal check or money order or arrange to deliver it in person. Make sure the name and address of the donor is included on a separate piece of paper if they wish to receive a receipt from us. If you hold cash or checks to turn in at one time, make sure to turn the amount in before the payment due date as seen on your trip page.
Credit Card – PayPal, VISA or MasterCard donations or payments are accepted. The donor may call an RLI staff member or Trip Coordinator or make payments online on our donations page. Simply note which trip you are joining under “Purpose” on the donation page. If your supporters use this page, have them do the same and add your name so that we know the support is intended for your trip.
- Expenses you may have in connection with things such as baggage fees and transportation to and from the departure point.
- You must send receipts to RLI staff and you will receive reimbursement after returning from the trip.
- Reimbursement receipts can be submitted up to one month after the date of return from the trip.
- You may also request to have your support applied towards another person’s trip cost.
- You may also request to have your overage of funds applied to a future trip within a calendar year of your initial trip.
We strongly encourage everyone to raise support from friends, family, colleagues, and churches. This gives them an opportunity to participate in the work you are doing. Many people will consider it a privilege to be asked to participate in your trip in this way. For more information on the Tax Deduction they will receive, please refer back to the section about Tax Deduction for Donations.
Watch the Lord work as you reach out in faith, and let your mission experience begin before you ever depart. We expect that you will have no problem raising most, if not all, of your trip cost. As a matter of fact, we often have participants raise more than what is needed, which is very helpful, as the excess goes back to our scholarship fund to ensure this program is available to future participants in years to come!
- Relatives, family friends, (including those out of town)
- Christmas card and graduation lists
- Your personal address book (include friends and acquaintances)
- Your church; pastors, church members, small groups, Sunday school classes, and choir members
- School; coaches, professors, and parents of your school friends, or parents who you know through your children’s school
- Employers and coworker (past and present)
- Organizations you have had involvement with
- Doctors and local business owners, etc.
- People who have generally impacted your life in the past
2. Write a support Letter – See our “Sample Letter” to get ideas for how to write this type of letter. Add your own personal touch. People will appreciate this kind of a request (Be sure to include information found in the support letter checklist).
3. Send Letters – It is a good idea to include a response envelope when mailing (addressed to RLI) with a stamp. Place this inside of the envelope to make it easier for supporters to send their check. If sending an email, be sure to include a link to the our Donate page.
4. Follow-up phone call – Call the person a week or two after you send them a letter. Ask them if they received your letter and information:
- If they say no, they haven’t received it, verify their address and send them another one to that address. Wait an additional week, and then follow up again with a call.
- If they say yes, then ask them if they have any questions about Reel Life or your trip. Tell them where you are financially (how much you have raised, give an approximation if not sure), and that you would appreciate their help.
- If they agree to support you, thank them and ask them to also pray for your during your trip. Depending on the relation, you may like to invite them to consider joining the trip as well.
- If they can’t help you financially, ask them to support you by praying for you daily while you are gone.
Sample Support Letter
Be sure to include the following in your personalized support letter.
- Information about the country or culture.
- Information about RLI and the Field Partner.
- Description of activities the team is planning to be involved in.
- The total cost of the trip (either for you, or your whole team).
- The date the money is needed by (list the due dates given for your trip, or the week before the trip if you are starting late).
- Explanation of why you feel led to participate in this project.
- How the reader can be involved (praying, giving, going etc.)
- How the reader can make a donation towards your trip cost.
Optional additional subjects to include in your letter:
- A brief update about your personal life
- A brief testimony
- Trip or organization brochures, if you have them
Steps to take when working with your Church:
- Contact the pastor, youth or missions pastor, an Elder, a Deacon, a friendly layman, etc.
- Set up an appointment to talk with them face to face. Don’t try to explain the whole thing over the phone or in an email. Tell them you need their help and suggestions. Try to get a 20 minute appointment within that same week.
Prepare for the appointment :
- Write down a list of the things you want to cover and ask about during the appointment.
NOTE: Pastors and church people are in the ministry of helping. Let them help you, but make it easy by letting them know what help you need.
- Assume that they are unfamiliar with RLI. Take about five minutes and explain the organization to them. If you look through brochures, materials and our website, you will be able to adequately explain the ministry. Any RLI staff member would be happy to help you with this as well!
- Share your story; how you heard about RLI, how the Lord is working in your life, and why you want to go on this trip.
- Make a request for financial assistance or for help in finding people to support the trip. You may desire to make announcements in front of the Church or various Sunday school classes.
- Odd Jobs – Mow lawns, baby-sit, or find other creative ways to earn extra money.
- Apparel Sale – RLI has apparel that is used for fundraising, and we’d be happy for you to sell our apparel for any profit to go towards your trip cost.
- Personal Sacrifice – take a lunch to work, drink water instead of soft drinks. Put any money saved toward the trip.
- Yard Sale – Host a team-wide yard sale. Ask friends and family to donate items for the sale and split the money between each participating team member.
- Make Something – Use special talents to make items for sale. Find a creative place to sell the items and put the proceeds toward the trip.
- Sell T-Shirts: Proceeds go towards your mission trip expenses! You can design your own shirt, and if you’d like to use our logo, send us your design for approval and we’ll send you the correct file to use. Email email@example.com. You also can sell Reel Life Shirts by purchasing them at cost and selling at a markup to support your trip. Here is an example of one of our trip shirts: RLI Trip T-Shirt Please contact us if you would like to sell our shirts to raise funds.
- Fundraising Events – Coordinate a team event where you cook a meal for your church, or put on a skit to ask for donations. If you have musical talents, you could do a concert. The funds raised there can be split between the participating members (or for the whole team).
- Friends – You can ask friends who are not able to go on the trip to help you put a fundraising event together.
- Share your trip plans with your youth group, Sunday school class, bible study, work, school, family, etc.
- Use social networks to connect with us and to tell other people about what you will be doing.
- Use social networks to tell people how to donate toward your trip expenses.
- Create DVD or PowerPoint presentations about the trip and show them to friends and family, church groups, or other social groups.
Here are some common questions we’ve encountered in the past. Feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have!
A large group of zealous young people from a large American church came to Wales for a weeklong mission trip. Their assignment was to connect with local youth to share the gospel and invite them to a new church plant. The church planter on the field went to the airport to greet the group and orient them to local customs and culture. He was shocked to see the group—all fifty-two of them—wearing matching bright red t-shirts with the words “Save the Wales” emblazoned across the front. The quick-thinking church planter immediately sent the team to the restrooms to turn their shirts inside-out. We get it; you’re excited about your trip. And your team has worked tirelessly for months to raise support. But going to the trouble—and expense—of printing mission trip t-shirts communicates that the trip is all about you. Sure, wearing fluorescent shirts can make it easier to find team members in a crowded airport, but it also communicates that you are tourists rather than normal people hoping to build relational bridges and represent Jesus. Instead, do your best to minimize the differences between you and the people you’re going to serve. Ask local people what clothing is typically worn, and bring the closest thing you’ve got in your closet. If your team just really wants to match, opt for something less conspicuous, like bracelets or necklaces.
When we lived in Barcelona, Spain, we hosted dozens of students on short- and mid-term trips. For the most part, these young people were well-informed. They knew that Spain was in Europe, and they vaguely understood that Barcelona was the capital of Cataluña, a region of Spain populated with the non-Spanish Catalan people group. At least a few times, students asked us to show them the Eiffel Tower, which is, of course, in Paris, France. Some expressed disappointment because they expected to be eating rice and beans, with is typically Latin American food. One young lady was shocked to find that Spanish people weren’t as needy as the people she had encountered on a previous trip to Haiti. A little bit of research can make the difference between a helpful, faithful trip and one full of missed opportunities and cultural faux pas. Be sure to read up about the history, culture, and current events in the place you’ll be visiting so that your expectations will be realistic. Learn a few key phrases in the local language so you can demonstrate your appreciation of local people. Explore some local history for worldview context and to find cultural bridges for sharing the good news. A little bit of research can provide the insight you need for maximum kingdom impact.
The main reason you’re going on a mission trip is to help make disciples. So, why caution against leading with evangelism? Here’s the reason: if you’re not careful, jumping too quickly into a gospel presentation can lead to no gospel being communicated at all (or worse, a false gospel being shared). When well-intentioned mission-trippers begin every interaction with “Let me tell you about Jesus,” they can accidentally communicate the wrong things: that evangelism is merely a “sales pitch” and that we see people as projects. The gospel is the good news that Jesus paid the price for our great sin. By repenting from sin and trusting in Jesus alone, he rescues us from spiritual death and gives us eternal life. This is heavy stuff! Reducing the gospel to a canned presentation in a foreign language often means leaving out the “fine print,” which is so vital to truly understanding it. Following Jesus has its benefits, but it also costs everything. We must move carefully into meaningful personal interactions that allow us to communicate the fullness of what it really means to follow Jesus in ways that people can understand. Another side effect of rushing into a gospel presentation is that it makes people into projects. As good sent-ones, we seek to show and tell people what their lives would be like in Christ Jesus. We do this by engaging with people—sharing a meal, asking good questions, being good guests. Jesus set a great example for us when he interacted with people. Sometimes, he started with the pointed truth. Other times, he invited himself over for dinner. But in every instance, it seems that the person Jesus was interacting with felt—in that moment—like they were the most important thing in the world to him.
Yes, this is the opposite of our previous point. Although you shouldn’t rush into a gospel presentation, waiting too long can be a far greater mistake. In an effort to be gracious and culturally sensitive guests, many mission trip participants fail to ever proclaim the gospel to their hosts. Make the most of every opportunity to proclaim Christ as King and to call men and women to repentance. On your trip, people are likely to ask, “so what brings you to our part of the world?” Your answer will depend on what your missionary hosts instruct you to say, but be sure that you include some information about having been sent by God. This is a great way to introduce a spiritual element into the conversation. You may want to ask your hosts if they have such a sense of purpose about their lives. Their answers can be a perfect way to introduce the gospel. Before your trip, consult with your field hosts for some good ways to present the good news. But keep in mind that there is no “right” way to share the gospel. As weak and imperfect messengers, we will never do the message justice. But every effort we can make to be clearly understood is worth it. Prepare before your trip by practicing evangelism: first, with friends who are believers, then with others who may not be Christians, and finally across cultural barriers with immigrants in your own city or town. Advance preparation like this will help you anticipate common objections and navigate cultural misunderstandings.
Perhaps the most common mission trip mistake is committed after returning home. After seeing spiritual darkness or extreme poverty, after being an outsider who is willing to give up the comforts of home for the sake of ministry, thousands of American Christians seem to forget their experiences on the mission field and slip back into complacency as through the trip never happened. When you spend a week in unfamiliar places, under stress and fatigue to make disciples alongside a team of committed brothers and sisters in Christ, you experience life and church and mission in very real ways. A mission trip will “mess you up” in the very best of ways. Let the trip challenge you, and spend time reflecting on your experience. Allow God to teach you. Commit to changing your behavior in your daily life in light of all you’ve seen. A good way to ensure good stewardship of all that you’ve seen and heard is to keep a journal during your trip. Another idea may be to write a letter—while you’re still on the field—to yourself back home. Read the letter after you get back into your regular routine. Some people find it helpful to debrief the experience with their church leaders to explore what the church might learn from the experience of the few who went on the trip. These kinds of notes can serve as valuable reference material as you look for ways to share and apply all that you learned once you’re back home.
The time, money, and effort that goes into a short-term mission trip can have incredible kingdom impact. Avoid these common mission trip mistakes to maximize your faithfulness and increase your effectiveness as you serve in God’s mission.