Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jamaica Mission Trip - intro

I recently traveled to Jamaica for a 9 day Young Adult Mission Trip with the Community of Christ Church.  The participants were in the 18-35 age range from the United States, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic. I want to share my experience with others so that they will know how valuable it is for people to take trips like this.  I journaled each night while on my trip and I will be sharing excerpts from those entries right here on the blog every day for the next week. 

I remember learning about World Service Corps while in college and wanted to do it so bad.  The amount of money I would need to come up with might as well have been $1 million dollars.  To me, at that time, a few thousand dollars did not seem possible.  Life goes on, I grew up, and I only get two weeks of vacation from my job a year...not enough to spend months on a mission trip.  I have told Troy many, many times that if we ever win the lottery (and don't have to worry about jobs/bills) one of the things I want to do is spend months on a mission trip.  I want to win the lottery and then spend 3 months living in a tent in Africa, getting to know the people, hoping to make a difference.

When I learned that I would get to go on this trip I expected to come back happy that I had completed something on my bucket list.  I was not prepared to come back feeling like I did not do enough.  While I plan to do things to give back from home, while still going to work every day, it is not the same.  I want to leave my life behind and totally immerse myself into a mission trip - giving those people my full attention every day.  I hope to take a trip like this again someday, and next time I'm taking Troy with me! 

I was trying to figure out what to write to let you know why I wanted to go on this trip and what I hoped to get out of it, and I realized that my application answered those questions.  So, here is the application I submitted back in November (and crossed my fingers/toes/legs/eyes every day until I got the email letting me know I was going on the trip). 



Why do you want to participate in this event?
I have a strong desire to leave my small mark on the world. There are many people in the United States that need my help, but right now I would love to have this opportunity to help in Jamaica. Someday I am going to start a family of my own and a mission trip to another country will be much harder to take. I feel that the time is right for me to take this trip now.

I have been working on “paying it forward” in my personal life. I am blessed to have been born into a family that was able to provide for my needs, took me to church every week, and instilled in me a great set of morals. One of the greatest lessons I learned from my parents is that no matter how little I may have, I always have something to give. That is a lesson I have taken to heart and do my best to live out every day.

I want to give. I want to give to the people in Jamaica. I want to give to the other young adults on this trip. I want to give to my home congregation. I want to give back to this world for everything I have been given, and this trip to Jamaica is just a start.

How might your participation in this event impact your local congregation?
As members of our congregation grow and experience new things they open doors for others to share in those experiences. I will be able to share my experience - my testimony - from this trip to Jamaica with my congregation. I will be able to open their eyes and their hearts to the needs of people in other parts of the world. This is not an experience that is meant to stay within the walls of my home congregation, it is one that should and will be shared with many.

A few years ago a member of my congregation learned of a wonderful opportunity to give and she shared that experience with the rest of the congregation, opening our eyes and our hearts to the needs of those in Kansas City. Because that one person was willing to share her experience I was able to learn about and volunteer with the same organization last year. I am now sharing my testimony of that experience with others by word of mouth, facebook, and through my blog. An event I learned about at church and experienced with my church family is now spreading around the country and I have people from California, Texas, and Nebraska asking what they can do to help our local Kansas City families. This trip to Jamaica is much like that because it starts at church, but the impact this trip leaves on me will reach much further than the Odessa congregation.  

Identify two of the church’s Enduring Principles and describe how you hope those principles will be lived out by the participants in this event.
First Principle: Grace and Generosity
For me this is just as much about receiving as it is about giving. We must be willing to give of ourselves, completely. We can not just show up and do what is asked of us, we must be willing to give more than is expected, and give directly from the heart. We must be willing to give everything we can, because we can. Preparation for this trip must start now with prayer to prepare our minds and our hearts. We must focus on living a healthy life now so that we are prepared for the physical strains that will be placed upon our bodies during this trip. We must prepare now so that as we land in Jamaica our cups will be overflowing with love and we can’t help but spread it to everyone we meet.

I am prepared to give, but I must also be open to receive the grace and generosity of others while in Jamaica. It is sometimes easier to give than to open ourselves up, make ourselves vulnerable, and receive the generosity of others. As much as I hope that I am able to leave a lasting impression on those I help, I also hope that they are willing to leave a lasting impression upon me. We each have something to give, and we must be open to the gifts that others bring, for they will keep our cups full

It is my hope that those who are able to make this trip will go prepared to share their strength, their heart, their tears and their laughter as they reach out to the people in Jamaica. I also hope that they will not be so focused on giving that they miss the strength, the hearts, the tears and the laughter that the Jamaican people have to share with them. It is important to give with all your heart, soul, might, and mind but it is also important to receive. Generously give and graciously accept what the Lord gives you.

Second Principle: Sacredness of Creation
I adore my smart phone. It never leaves my side, and I check it multiple times every hour. I worry about it when it is not acting properly, or has some how gotten lost. My smart phone allows me to quickly connect to my friends and family. It keeps track of my schedule, and reminds me when someone is having a birthday. It lets me know when a prayer request has been sent out so I can pray for them the instant the email is received. I have used my smart phone to comfort a friend in need when I could not be there, and to call for help in my time of need. My life is wrapped up in a piece of technology and I would be lost without it. I am ready to get lost from the world as I know it so that I can discover and find appreciation in the rest of this glorious world God has created.

I need to spend more time finding appreciation in nature, and in people. I need to look away from the glare of my smart phone so that I can see the beauty in this world. God created the powerful waves of the ocean, and the gentleness of falling autumn leaves and I need to take time to enjoy them. God created each one of us and I need to spend time enjoying the people he created instead of just reading about them on facebook.

I need to leave the world as I know it, leave the smart phone behind, and spend a week appreciating what God has created.  

Describe characteristics you have that would positively influence this event.
There is positive to be found in any situation, you just have to look for it. For as long as I can remember I have started my day with a positive thought. Before I get out of bed in the morning I think of at least one thing I have to look forward to that day. Finding the positive is a strength of mine and a characteristic that I hope rubs off on others. In college I posted a new list every day with at least 3 things to be happy about. This daily list became something for the women on my hall to look forward to and they would often stop by with suggestions of things I could add to the list the following day. My quest to find the positive became a journey we all took together. A positive attitude is a wonderful thing to share.

Empathy is the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes and imagine what it feels like to be in their situation. I am empathetic. As I pull off the side of the road to allow a funeral procession to pass by I find myself crying for the people I have never met, but I understand that they are hurting at the loss of a loved one. After a friend tells me about his exciting news I am so happy for him that I have trouble clearing my mind to fall asleep that night. I find it easy to relate to others and understand how they are feeling. I imagine this event will bring out a range of emotions in all of us, and I am looking forward to sharing those experiences with the people I meet. Empathy allows me to easily find common ground as others share their emotions with me.

Describe a time when you had to achieve certain objects through a collaborative and team effort.
This one is hard for me to narrow down to a specific event because one of my strengths is the ability to see how we are each dependent on each other. I would not be submitting this application if I did not have amazing people in my life who have given me great confidence that I can take a trip like this. This task was made easier by the invention of the computer, and the internet. I am able to save money to go on this trip because others have helped me when I had financial trouble in the past. It is easy to look at this world and see how we are all working together as a team.

My husband and I are responsible for planning and leading a family night at church each month. A few nights ago we led a crazy, fun filled evening of Halloween games. The evening would not have been a success without the help of everyone there. Children were crawling around on the floor picking up candy that had been thrown during a game. Adults were quick to assist with setting up games and helping the little ones out. Some showed up early to help set up and others stayed late to help clean. I may have been “in charge”, but the night was a success because we worked as a team.

Even as I think about projects I have completed on my own, I know that it was really a team effort that allowed me to accomplish anything by myself. It is because my husband has been willing to give me quiet time to work, and my co-workers have been taking on extra tasks, and the people who love me have been sending me words of encouragement as I have worked on this application that I am able to submit this “on my own”. Everything we do is a team effort…sometimes we just don’t realize it.  

What do you believe is one of the greatest strengths of Community of Christ?
We are a world wide church, and that amazes me. At the core we are the same, sharing a common set of beliefs, but as you start to explore the different parts of the world, different
congregations, and the individuals that create our church you see how diverse our church is. We do not all celebrate or worship in the same way, but yet we are connected through a common set of beliefs. I feel like I could walk into a congregation in California, Missouri, or Jamaica and know that I am home. I may not recognize any faces, and the setting may be unfamiliar, but yet it is the same. I know that these people understand why I’m there and I am welcome.

What do you believe is one of the greatest weaknesses of Community of Christ?
Community of Christ may be a world wide church, but there is still so much room for growth. I don’t believe in “recruiting” people to join our church, and the numbers of members we have is not important to me. With that being said, it would be amazing to have more congregations, more people in this church. I am blessed to live in a part of the world where there is a Community of Christ in every town, but I know that most church members are not so lucky. There are people who have to drive an hour, or two hours to attend a Community of Christ church. It is easy for me to be involved in my congregation because it’s a 2 minute drive from my house. How much stronger would our church be if we had enough members to create more congregations so that people could be more involved and have a choice when choosing which congregation to attend? I would love to take some of the church members located here and spread them out around the world.  

Describe any experiences you have had working in a diverse environment.
I took a winter term program while at Graceland working with inner-city youth in Kansas City. We assisted different organizations with programs they already had in place. The one that really stood out to me was a day we spent volunteering at an after school program, doing arts and crafts with kids who were desperate for attention. Many of them were from single parent homes and spent a lot of time looking after themselves while their parent was at work. They needed food, shelter, and an education, but they also needed love and attention. They needed adults to look up to, to model their lives after. They needed someone to believe in them and assure them that they could do great things with their lives. It’s amazing what people can do when they have someone who believes in them.

Everyone has the ability to make a difference. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live, or what color your skin is – you can and will make a difference to many people as you go through life. You are being watched and someone is looking to you as a role model for their own life. Make sure you are setting a positive example as you go about your day, because you never know when you will be leaving a lasting impression on someone without even knowing it.  

Thank you for allowing me to dream big and spend time thinking about all the things I can and will do to make a difference.
I am ready to leave my smart phone, my congregation, and my comfort zone behind for a while as I get to know more about this church and the awesome young adults that are willing to use their vacation time to help people in need. Together we can achieve great things! I have dreamed of taking a trip like this for many years and I am ready to embark on the journey – a journey that will leave a lasting impression on me. This trip is just the beginning.

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