Last summer, I spent ten days on a mission trip to Kingston, Jamaica with my church youth group, through an organization called Adventures in Missions (www.adventuresinmissions.com). I signed up for the trip expecting a fun week in the Caribbean with my friends, but little did I know how this trip would stretch me beyond my comfort zone in many ways. We stayed at a Salvation Army base, and our living conditions were quite primitive. There was cold showers, no air-conditioning, ethnic food, and dirt and bugs everywhere. The first few days of the trip I was miserable. I missed my cell phone, my friends, and my nice home where my mom cooked food that I was used to. I was surrounded by poverty and people that were hurting, but my selfishness kept me from caring about the needs of anyone except myself.
Midway through the trip, I ended up visiting a place down the street called “The Nest,” a home for children who had been removed from their families. I sat down next to a girl named Abigail, and we began to talk. She asked me questions about America, and I told her about where I lived and the kinds of things I usually did. She told me she had always wished that she lived in America, and as we continued to talk she told me about her family, and about how her parents did not care about her and had abused her. She hadn’t seen any of her friends in months, and in “The Nest” she was lonely and scared. It broke my heart. From then on, nothing about me mattered. Why did I care about not having my phone when my friend Abigail didn’t even have a family? We spent the entire night together, and by the end of the night she was laughing with me and hugging me nonstop. I couldn’t give her her family back, but I could show her love and attention, and from then on I knew that was what was important. That was why I was here. There were so many hurting and lonely people around me, and by being a friend to them I could take away some of their pain.
The rest of the week, I fell in love with Jamaica. I walked through the slums, talking to people who were lonely and making friends with people who had nothing. I helped them with many things, but they also helped me. Through them I saw what was really important in life. At the end of my life, it won’t matter how much money I had or how nice my house was, but if I sat down with those who were brokenhearted and gave them a reason to smile, then my life will have meant something.
By the end of the trip, everything that had bothered me so much at the beginning—the cold showers, the bugs, the dirt—all became part of the adventure. My suitcase became infested with ants. I saw bugs crawling in the refrigerator. The water I drank was cloudy. I was sweaty and dirty all of the time, and I learned to look past all of that once I learned what was really important. I made lots of friends who lived in the slums nearby, and I will never forget them. Someday I would like to return to Jamaica, or else visit another third-world country and live alongside the people there for a while. This trip changed my outlook on life, and it was a great adventure!
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