Category Archives: Missions

Travel with Purpose

IMG_2526

I love to travel. I love to explore new places, meet new people and experience different cultures. I love journeying to other countries and learning about their traditions and values. Each place in this world is fantastically unique, filled with beautiful people who each have a story to tell.

I can’t pinpoint where or when I developed my love of travel. I suspect it goes back to my childhood when my family constantly moved around and had to adapt to new surroundings.

The move that impacted me the most was when my dad was transferred to the island of St. Kitts in the Eastern Caribbean. For us, that involved more than simply adapting to new surroundings. We had to adapt to a new culture, a new climate and a completely new way of life.

While there were lots of incredible experiences living in St. Kitts, there were also many experiences that gave me nightmares for years after moving back to Canada. My eyes were too young and innocent to witness the violence and poverty that surrounded me. My mind and soul were too naive to comprehend the intolerance and cruelty I faced regularly.

However, my young self didn’t know that nearly two decades later, these haunting experiences would influence my travel choices in a positive way.

While I have taken some fun and amazing vacations on cruise ships, and to beautiful cities like Boston and Chicago, my travel desires have changed as I have gotten older. Now, they tend to be shaped around more purposeful journeys.

I want to see new places and experience different cultures, but not from a beach-side resort where I am being served a beverage in a coconut shell while sunbathing in a lounge chair. That would be amazing for about two days and then I would be quite bored.

The travel experiences I currently desire are not about me being comfortable and waited on. I don’t simply want to see a new culture, but I want to experience it. I don’t want to just meet new people, I want to know them. At the end of the day, I don’t want to only wash beach sand off my body, but also dirt, sweat, and even some tears.

I want to travel with purpose.

For me, right now that means short term mission and volunteer trips. I want to serve others, learn their stories and share their journeys. I want to travel in teams where we work together and have fun together. I want to learn about how others live, what values they hold dear, and how they came to be who they are. I want to hear their struggles, where they get strength and what makes them happy.

Two weeks ago I returned from a 12 day mission trip to the Czech Republic. Many people wonder why this country is a destination for mission work. They hear Prague and imagine a wealthy tourist area.

It is true that the Czech Republic is not physically poor, but when it comes to spiritual poverty, they are among the poorest. It is regularly described as an atheist country, and this is due to a complicated and difficult history when the people of the country were not allowed to speak about religion, let alone pursue it.

The team that I travelled with was not there to provide food, clothing or any material goods. We were there to bring the love of God, and what an honour it was to be a part of that. During our time there, we saw God at work, opening minds and softening hearts toward him. There were some proclaimed atheists who showed up at church on our final Sunday. God’s presence was everywhere and it was exhilarating.

IMG_2545

The Team

I had the privilege of working with 10 incredible teens, all of whom dug deep into my heart. Two weeks have passed and I miss them terribly. When the time came to return home, I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to stay and continue journey with the beautiful youth I had gotten to know.

Thank goodness for technology and Facebook so I can stay in touch with them.

IMG_2513

The wonderful teens I worked with

This world is full of beautiful people who have struggled, fought for themselves and their families, and survived unbelievable experiences. I have learned so much from those I have met on my travels. They have taught me about faith, strength, endurance, hope, redemption, joy, and most importantly, love. They have shown me what truly matters in this world – love and compassion for one another.

The experiences I have had on mission trips have opened my eyes to my own blind spots. They’ve put my flaws and weaknesses on full display. And they’ve taught me acceptance; acceptance of others and acceptance of myself.

The first mission trip I went on changed me. Each one after that awoke another part of my soul and reminded me of why we are here – to care for one another.

We live in a broken world. The only way we can begin to repair it is together. And to work together, we need to learn about and accept the uniqueness of each culture, country, and person. That doesn’t mean we always have to agree, but it does mean we have to have respect.

For me, that means continuing to travel with purpose, and continuing to learn.

I don’t simply want to see the world – I want to change it for the better. Yes, that is a massive goal, but years ago I laid myself before the Lord and said “Use me”. His response was to provide opportunities for mission and volunteer trips.

I am lucky enough to have the support and ability to continue to take part in these travels. I know it is not something everyone can do, but God has given me a lifestyle that allows it. I am single and child-free so I can jump at the opportunities that come my way.

I hope I can continue to do mission trips throughout my life. I am grateful for those who have supported me in these trips, both financially and spiritually.

I don’t know if I am actually changing the world for the better. I don’t know if I am making any difference at all. But I am trying.

That’s all any of us can do.

Fergusonbm_cross

 

Please fill free to share this post or any of my others!

 

Advertisements

Costa Rica

image.jpeg

The adventure may have come to an end, but the experience, memories and all that I learned are stamped on my heart.

Costa Rica is the latest country I have fallen in love with. Words can’t describe the beauty of this place, the depth of its culture or the grace of its community. Each day I was in wonder at constant new discoveries and breath-taking views.

image.jpeg

From giant toads (and I mean GIANT) to howling monkeys to colour changing iguanas, the wild life was fascinating. Except when we encountered three snakes during our hike through the rainforest. While my team ran towards them for pictures, I ran past as fast as I could. Nothing would convince to stop and view these slithering creatures I like to call ‘the devil’s pet’.

image

Many times throughout the 9 days, I found myself frozen, starring at scenery or wildlife in amazement. There were butterflies coloured in lime green, hummingbirds fluttering past, funny looking, furry creatures causing traffic to stop as they crossed the road, coffee plantations, mango trees, and so much more.

Alligators in a river, a sloth in a tree, clouds surrounding the tip of a volcano, waves gently brushing a rocky, sandy shore. I could write for days on the incredible beauty I had the privilege of viewing.

 

A highlight for me was the taste of a guava, my favourite tropical fruit, picked right from a tree. This is something I had not expierenced in over twenty years, since my family moved from the Caribbean.

Beauty, nature and wildlife aside, my heart wraps around the people I met. People who brought me instant joy and will have a place in my heart for the rest of my life.

First there was the Habitat for Humanity team from Canada, which consisted of myself and 6 other women, none of whom I had previously met. It’s intimidating to travel thousands of miles to spend over a week with a group of people you have never met, but I was instantly put at ease with these women.

We were from all over Canada, a variety of ages and life experiences, but we connected right away. There wasn’t a single issue during our 9 days together – no disagreements or hurt feelings or negative encounters. We interacted, laughed and took care of each like we had been friends for years.

Then there was our Costa Rican guide, and our driver, Felipe and Maurizio (who names I may be mis-spelling). The two fun-loving, kind, patient, intelligent men are among the best I’ve ever met. They took care of us from start to finish, made sure we had all we needed, translated for us, showed us many of the treasures of Costa Rica, kept us hydrated and well fed and safe. They quickly became our friends and we enjoyed many laughs together. A memorable night was our second last one together when we sat by the pool of our hotel, in the middle of the mountains, and sang song after song as Felipe accompanied on his guitar.

image

Finally, there was the family and community where we helped build the house. The house is for a single mother who has a 3 year old son. It is on the same property as her parents’ home, whom she has been living with. Although a language barrier existed, it did not take long to connect with her and her family as we worked alongside one another, ate together, and at the end of the week, celebrated together.

The first day on the build site, we arrived to nothing but dirt and spots marked for digging. We spent our first day digging deep, narrow holes that the posts for the house would go into. As the week moved on, we made cement, shovelled sand & gravel, put in the posts, and slid in the cement panels to form walls. Many other jobs existed between, but by the last day, the walls were up and the floor was levelled, and it was time for the Costa Rican Crew to begin the wiring.

Helping on the build site was the hardest physical work I have ever had to do. The Canadians all ended up with bumps, bruises and scratches from the work. On the last build day, I sprained my thumb while shovelling sand into a wheel barrow when my shovel forcefully hit a big rock buried in the sand pile.

The end of a work day saw us soaked in sweat, dirty and exhausted, but it was worth it. We helped build a house for a mom and a son who needed a house. It doesn’t get any better than that.

My trip to Costa Rica with Habitat for Humanity was inspiring, incredible, fun, and one of the best experiences of my life.

I can’t wait to do it again.

A very special thank you to all who helped make this possible by donating financially to my trip.

 

Please feel free to share this post and any others of mine