I highly recommend going on a mission trip. I’ve just completed my second trip. This time I spent Monday - Friday of Spring Break with a group of 22 people from Church of All Nations, Hong Kong, who were working in conjunction with an organization called CWEF. We had the opportunity to sight see a tad bit, support organizations which empower former sex slaves and homeless men and then teach children at a school and integrate into their rural community.
Things I never thought I would do but have done:
- Eat fried scorpion. The tail - to be exact. It tasted earthy and more like dirt than anything. (I’m sure you can figure out why.) Don’t need to do that again.
- Eat fried cricket. Fried in oil and seasoned with salt - not too bad really. Just don’t stare in their vacant eyes too much.
- Un-thatch and re-thatch a chicken coop roof. I was part of a team of about 9 people, true. But I never imagined I would do it.
- Teach 4 - 14 year-old Cambodian children animals in English. Their school is basic - a play yard, cement building with one room for each of six grades. No electricity. Natural lighting. Black board, teacher desk, student desk, posters on the wall. The children had fun and were engaged in the 45 minute lessons. But they really loved play time jumping rope, making friendship bracelets, and playing soccer with the kids from Hong Kong. At the end of their day it was lunch time. Children walked or rode bikes home.
- Meet and talk with a family with no electricity or clean water source, but squatter latrine out back. As far as I could tell, they had only a one-room home made out of wood and dirt floor. Platforms to sleep on, sit on, work on, use as a table or anything else. Babies and children didn’t appear to have any possessions or toys and weren’t giggling or playing rough. Just shy and smiling with beautiful soul-light in their eyes. Father said knowing Christ has brought him a sense of peace in his poverty. Chickens, cats, and roamed freely.
- Breathe dust and dirt. So much dust from the dirt road going through the community. Always dust in the air as cars and motorcycles bop by. Road crew came by to water the road to help tamp down the dust, but somehow, it was back to atrocious the following day. That means everything you have gets dusty: floors, pots and pans, cooking surfaces, feet, hair, arms. And with limited water source, people can stay dirty a long time.
- Help make five gallons of dish soap from the chemicals and water needed to do so.
- Shave banana plant for pounding into a meal mixed with rice husks for the farm ducks.
- Love, love, love human beings from a place and society foreign to my experiences.
What’s the take away?
Well, I realize that outsiders can be helpful in lifting a community up, but that there are likely good ways and bad ways to do it. You want to give them what they need to lead a healthier life, but don’t go in trying to change their society. Something like building a water filter that can clean gallons of water at a time, is made from community materials, and that the people are taught how to do it and the value of doing it - that works. Bringing in a hundred plastic toothbrushes, maybe not. Where do they throw them out when then are done, since they are not biodegradable and there’s not easy garbage disposal? And what if they can’t get more when you are gone?
Societies are running for the most part in a way that is sustainable for THEM. It may look very different from what I know, but that doesn’t mean it’s not functioning.
Long term relationships with a community and its people seem to be a good way to go, but again, don’t impose your views upon them and don’t make the community dependent upon your support. CWEF supports the school we were at by hiring teachers. But then they ask the students to contribute a very nominal amount of money to their education. This way, CWEF can back out and move to another community, while the school can continue to run off of the tuition paid by the students and the investment in education that the community comes to value.