Going on a missions trip can change your life and perspective. But, mission trips can be exhausting for introverted people! Here are the most important things introverts need to know about going on a missions trip, inspired by my volunteer work in Haiti.
I recently spent a week with Mission Possible, serving on a medical missions trip. We also helped with the construction of a playground and a sewing class for Haitian women. Did I Blossom while I was there? Yes! For how long did I collapse after I got home? Two full days.
Because I’m introverted, I find it difficult to spend lots of time in groups of people. You’d never know I’m an introvert by watching me – I’m friendly, curious, and can easily make conversation with all types of people. But every conversation takes a lot of energy, and I feel emotionally and physically exhausted after spending time with people. Are you an introvert? If you’re not sure, read Are You an Introvert? A Test for Introverted Personality Traits. And if a mission trips are in your future, you need to know what I learned about introverted missionaries in Haiti…
First, what do you already know about your personality? What advice have you received about mission trips and introverted people? Before you scroll through my tips, take a moment to listen to that still, small voice. Tell me what you hear – I welcome your big and little thoughts in the comments section below.
What Introverts Need to Know About Mission Trips
Introverted people are drained when they spend time with people. Extroverts gain energy from groups – the more, the merrier! There are more extroverts in the world than introverts; I remember seeing a statistic that said approximately 70% of North Americans are extroverts, and only about 30% of people have introverted personality traits.
I’m not only an introvert, I’m a full-time writer. I LOVE spending my days all by myself, blogging and running with my dogs and napping and having lunch alone. I’m always happy to see my husband at the end of the day…but I’d never give up my solo writing career.
When my friend Gayle invited me on this missions trip to Haiti, I jumped at the chance! But I was also hesitant because I knew I’d be surrounded by people for two whole weeks. We decided to spend a couple nights in South Beach in Miami on the way to Haiti, and five nights in Hollywood Beach (Florida) on the way home. We shared a hotel room to save money.
I returned from our trip two days ago…and I could barely get out of bed. I had tons of energy on the trip, but I collapsed when I got home. I’m not physically ill. I don’t have malaria. I’m just an introvert recovering from two full weeks of being with people. I love my friend Gayle and we did spend time apart in Hollywood Beach, but still. I was on empty.
So, what did I learn about introverted people and mission trips? Lots!
Prepare weeks in advance
For three weeks before the missions trip to Haiti, I prayed for strength. I asked God to come alongside me. I gave Him my fears of not having enough emotional energy. Every morning I journal my prayers and reflections, and I spent a lot of time asking God to fill me up for whatever mission trips awaited me in Haiti.
Are you going on a missions trip? Start talking with God about it now. It’s never too soon to start preparing your heart and soul, and to ask Him for support and guidance.
Trust Him to take care of your introverted personality traits
It took me awhile to realize that being introverted is a gift! Introverts are introspective and insightful, and often observant and perceptive. Of course being extroverted is a gift, too…but the point is that no matter what our personality traits are, we need to be grateful. God knew what He was doing when he created introverts and He will take care of us on whatever mission trips we experience.
God created us the way we are for a reason and for a purpose – and we can trust Him to give us the time and space we need to regroup and refresh. Being introverted can be a wonderful blessing, even if we feel odd or out of place in a world of extroverts. I’ve written several articles about introverted personality traits, such as Best Jobs for Introverts and Quiet People. I haven’t written many blog posts about mission trips because this one to Haiti was my first.
Follow Jesus’ lead
Was Jesus Christ an introvert? I don’t know, but I know he went off by himself to grieve and pray. He often took time alone, by himself away from the crowd. This doesn’t mean Jesus was introverted, though. Even extroverts need time alone sometimes.
Jesus never apologized for spending time alone with His Father. If you’re going on a missions trip, you need to know that it’s okay – and even healthy – to spend time alone while you’re there. Introverted people won’t be helpful or healthy if they spend too much time with others. Take a page from Jesus’ book for introverted people, and spend time alone during the missions trip.
Be open with your fellow missionaries about your introverted personality
One of the first things I told the missionaries in Haiti was that I didn’t think I’d be playing cards with them every evening. We usually finished eating supper at 7 or 7:30 pm, and they often played Skip Bo until 10 or 11 pm. I was honest with everyone, saying I need to go back to my bunk and read, write, and listen to music alone. I wasn’t the only one who retired soon after supper – but I was definitely in the minority of people.
If you’re happy playing cards after supper on your missions trip, then play away! But if you find yourself exhausted or sad, then ask for grace. Tell your peers that you love them and think they’re fantastic people, but you need to honour your introverted personality traits. You need to recharge your batteries and revive your spirits.
When I told one of my fellow missionaries that I’d be spending most of my evenings alone in our room she said, “I’m so glad you said that! I feel the same way, but I felt bad about not playing cards with the group.” After a day of nursing on a missions trip in Haiti, all she wanted to do was be alone and read.
Listen for the still small voice
Of all the things you need to know about introverted people and mission trips, the most important is for you to listen to God’s still, small voice. Is He urging you to bow your head in prayer alone? Then bow your head and pray. Is He leading you to connect with one or two others, for a devotion or sharing time? Then go to them.
The only way you will hear His still small voice – on a missions trip or at home – is if you take time to listen. You don’t need hours of time on your knees! Even a few minutes of silence, away from the maddening crowd, will help you connect with God. The more you connect with Him, the bigger you will Blossom.
Help for shy introverts on mission trips
Read Adventures in Saying Yes: A Journey from Fear to Faith by Carl Medlars if you find that your introverted personality traits are a barrier to talking about Jesus. He calls you to live boldly in the face of your fears, whether you’re a shy introvert or an outgoing extrovert.
Say yes to your Father, and He will say yes to you.
I recently wrote Volunteer Work in India – How to Make It Amazing. I haven’t been on any mission trips to India (Haiti was my first “missions trip”, though I lived in Africa for three years. I was in Nairobi, Kenya teaching missionaries’ kids at at American International School called Rosslyn Academy).
If you have any questions or thoughts about introverted personalities and mission trips to Haiti, please do comment below! I’d love to hear from you.
A Question for Introverted Missionaries
Whether this is your first or fifth missions trip, what advice would you give other introverts Feel free to share your experience of introverted personality traits and mission trips.
Love yourself enough to give yourself what you need to Blossom.