In the words of John O’Callaghan, leader singer of a band called The Maine, “Don’t forget how lucky we are to be alive. Take advantage of every day. There might not be a tomorrow.” This is a motto that I strive to live by; make the most of every chance that you are given. That is why when I was presented the chance to go to Kenya, Africa during Christmas Break of 2008; I took it. I have always loved traveling and experiencing other cultures, plus combing that with helping extremely needy people, made me awfully excited. Until I got there, I truly thought that the students in my mission team, Operation Beautiful Feet, and I were going to go over there, help the native people, and share our faith. I had no idea the impact this trip would have on my entire life. I grew so much because of the experiences I had on this trip. I learned so much about myself, and I finally realized how lucky and blessed my life truly is.
First of all, Africa is a gorgeous place. The culture there is so dramatically different than it is here in the United States. But among all of that beauty, there is an enormous amount of poverty. It broke my heart to see the conditions that most citizens are forced to live in. While there, we visited the largest slum in the entire country, Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya. It was unlike any other place I had ever been. There was sewage, trash, dirt, and people everywhere. The houses were about the size of my bathroom, and there were thousands of them. They were made out of scrap metal, wood, and even doors. They had dirt floors, no lights, and had at least four or five people living in them. And the smell, it was awful. It smelled like sewage mixed with animals. Everything there smelled like that; there was no escaping it. But even in the midst of all that, there was so much love present. The kids latched onto us as we walked down the street, the adults gave us huge grins, and residents welcomed us graciously into their houses. Of course, we faced some opposition, but not enough to make us fear for our safety. The days that we spent there were used to build a Sunday school room at a makeshift church someone had started. We tore down a dilapidated shack and put in hours of labor to make the new building. Even though we helped them greatly; I honestly believe that we got more out of the experience than they did.
Firsthand, I experienced how a completely different culture lives. That experience made me appreciate every single thing I have. We can take a shower anytime we feel like it; they do not even have clean water. We can go to the grocery store and get food if we are hungry; they sometimes only eat once every other day. We have so many privileges that they will never has; it just really made me understand how lucky we are. Not only that, but I also learned about myself as a person. I learned that I can overcome anything if I set my mind to it, and I can spread hope to people that feel like there is no way out. I realized that I am a strong person, and that I can use my gifts to help change the world.
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