by Jill Lienemann, Kesher International Missions | ©2011
My closet is full of colorful silk-screened mission trip t-shirts. Each one chronicles the date of the trip, country visited and type of ministry. Even years later, when I wear one of them special memories and tremendous moments from the mission field rush to my mind.
In addition to having a cool (or maybe not so cool) souvenir from your international experience, there are other advantages as well as disadvantages to wearing team shirts.
Matching tops foster unity and team spirit among the individuals. The trip leader can easily track team members at the airport or at stop-offs during bus transportation. The in-country hosts can distinguish the group at the destination pick up. Being visibly identified as a mission group capitalizes on natural opportunities such as conversations about Christ or receiving blessings (cash donations or prayers) from total strangers.
To the contrary, security agencies would argue that a group wearing identical shirts becomes an obvious target for begging, pick pocketing, kidnapping or other criminal actions. Airport custom officials may pull the team and their luggage aside seeking bribes or for extra inspection suspecting ministry supplies are being brought into the country.
If you decide in favor of team shirts for the mission trip, you may want to contemplate a few other things before placing your order:
• Fabric thickness. For the sake of modesty, ladies might have to wear an added layer beneath a lightweight material causing a warm environment to be even more unbearable.
• Color selection. Depending upon your country destination, some hues may be gang-related or have a political affiliation.
• Words and symbols. Some Christian verbiage and images as well as American slang do not translate well in other languages and can offend rather than attract people.
Still on the fence or have any doubts? Consult with your local hosts for their valuable input towards deciding to travel conspicuously or inconspicuously.
Remember the clothing that is non-negotiable…“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NIV)
KESHER TIP (connection): My Cup Runneth Over
Extra team t-shirts make wonderful thank you gifts for those who have helped you on your mission trip. Missionary hosts, bus drivers, translators and others will feel included and truly part of the team. Truthfully, how much room do you have in your closet? Think about leaving behind your own t-shirt to bless someone who would wear it more often than you.