The most influential traveling experience I have had was when I went to South Africa on a mission trip. It was one summer trip that I will never forget.
Around February 2007 the planning began for the trip. I met the other teenagers that were going. Prior to our trip, we engaged in fundraising; sold doughnuts, t-shirts and car wash. We learned different ways to minister to other kids in the slums of Johannesburg, we also dealt with problems that we had with ourselves so we could truly be strong teens for other children.
When the time for me to leave for South Africa came closer I was beginning to get nervous. All my family members were telling me how much this would be a life-changing experience. I knew it was going to be a “big deal” but I did not realize how much it would actually impact my life. The day came, July 24, 2007, and my stomach was twirling. I and about twenty other teenagers and counselors had to fly to Texas to the Global Expeditions Headquarters, the agency which we were traveling through. We stayed in Texas for about two days to get some more basic training about our ministry and how we were going to set up the Children vacation bible school. We left for South Africa on July 26, 2007. The flight was sixteen hours, the longest flight of my life. All I could think about was what Johannesburg would look like. When we got there it was a complete culture shock. It was forty degrees and really windy. People were burning grass on the highway because that was there way of keeping the grass low and just walking on the highway. We got to the place where we were staying about an hour later. At that point all I wanted to do was call my parents and tell them how cold it was in South Africa. I was so glad that I packed a coat, gloves and a hat. When I called my parents they were bragging about how warm it was in the U.S.
Once we went to the slums I realized that the people were practically living outside in that freezing weather. At least I had a bed and cabin to go back to. I learned that many of the people were suffering from HIV/Aids. So many of the kids that I met were so thankful for the little things they had and it made me realize that I need to appreciate the things that I have. So many kids just wanted to have a decent education and the basic necessities of life. I knew from then on I needed to go back home and really work hard in school and be thankful for just the small things. Ministering to the children was so much fun. We taught them bible stories and songs. I bonded really well with those children and it was so hard for me to leave. While I was there, I also got to feed giraffe’s and play with lion cubs. We also went on a safari and had a campfire in the safari park. Those two weeks I spent in Johannesburg, South Africa was the best trip I have ever had. Even though it was cold and I did not have an I-pod, I would not change anything about that trip. It was the best trip that I could have ever asked for because I made a difference on people’s lives and at the same time changed my outlook on life. It was truly a life changing experience.
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