Back in 2007, I had gone on a missions trip to Kenya with my home church. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. It was also one of the biggest mistakes of my life and I still regret it to this day.
I never told anyone, but those two weeks I spent in Africa were terrible. It was quite possibly the worst missions trip I have ever been on. But I couldn’t exactly say that, especially after all of my friends, family, and campus church had invested so much money and time in prayer on my behalf. How could I come back and say anything short of God is amazing and truly showed his blessings upon us and other church-approved sayings? My PR training kicked in and I told them what they wanted to hear.
The thing is I KNEW I shouldn’t go on this trip from Day 1. I told Pastor James I wasn’t interested in another missions trip, that two back-to-back missions trips was enough for me. But nope. Him and Pastor Kang wouldn’t take no for an answer and soon enough I was signed up for more than I had bargained for.
Life is all about the choices we make, right? Well, if there was ever a crucial turning point, it was the night before our flight. The whole team was sleeping at church since we had to leave for the airport at around 4:00am. I was lying down in the pews and just about to knock out when I had this clear and urgent sense that I shouldn’t go. That moment was honestly the closest I’ve ever come to receiving a direct message from God about anything. He was giving me one last chance, and I totally ignored it. My stupid logic and reasoning kept saying how I couldn’t turn back now. That if I did, I would be wasting months of training, the hundreds of dollars my campus church had donated…how could I show my face back at KCS and tell them I hadn’t even had the guts to go to Kenya afterall?
The trip wasn’t all bad though. It was just the team chemistry that was driving me insane. First of all, I was the youngest on the team, which was ironically something I was looking forward to. Ever since I first accepted Christ in my freshman year of high school, I had never felt that ‘high’ again and was constantly in search of it. I chocked it up to a lack of older people to look up to. Everyone that had helped me through that time had gone to college or gotten married, basically moved on, and now this missions trip seemed like a chance for me to relive my ‘glory days’ with God if you will and, hopefully, reinstill my faith as I entered the new realm of college. Instead, my expectations came shattering down when I realized that most of the team had NEVER been on a missions trip before and how much that really made a difference. They viewed this as a vacation of sorts, and missions is supposed to be so much more than that. To me, missions is truly one of the most important and sacred things in life, and the way these older people were acting was an insult to that. For example, while on the trip, they would constantly complain about not being able to take a shower. HELLO. WE’RE IN THE FREAKIN DESERT. Water is not a commodity to be wasted on conditioning your hair. Another problem was hormones. A lot of the people on the team were in their mid-twenties, yet single, which led to its own slew of complications. Rather than working with the children, they were flirting with each other. Really? You paid $2,000 and traveled halfway around the world to try and get some? If you need a release, go work a corner back in the States. At least you would make some money then.
Clearly, I was frustrated, which was interpreted as I’m a bitch. The only thing that got me by was my new friend, 읍이. She was a fob from Korea that was also working with the missionary that was guiding our team. And even though I’d only known her for about two weeks, we kept in touch over the years. We’re actually meeting up tomorrow in NYC and I still consider her a good friend of my mine to this day.
Basically, long story short, I am more sure now than ever that everything happens for a reason. The message the night before, the doubt, the frustration…it was all just a necessary step so that I would reflect and mull over things later on like I am now. The way I look at it, this missions trip, though stressful, has not only taught me to be more patient with people (a skill I am still trying to perfect), but has also brought a friend in my life that I would never have met otherwise. I also got to meet a lot of great Kenyan children and witness their strength and inner joy despite the difficult situations they face.
Most importantly of all, I realized that I need to chill with my expectations and standards, especially when it comes to church stuff, hence my more…let’s call it ‘relaxed’ lifestyle this year. It’s funny because when I was trying to be a super-Christian, people called me too self-righteous and now that I’m trying to be more normal, everyone at church has forgotten me. I’m invisible. I guess there really is no in-between. But no worries. I know things will turn around and that my crazy standards won’t seem so crazy one day:
“I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
— Psalm 27:13 —