Monday, June 6, 2016

20 Things I Learned on my Missions Trip to a Third-World Country

1. We were taught growing up to look both ways before crossing the road. However, some roads still exist where you don't even have to look one way before crossing.

If there is a motorcycle, you'll hear it. Or else, it can swerve around you.

2. In contrast, there are some roads that you MUST NEVER CROSS. NOT. EVER.

Really, though. It better be a life/death emergency already, because it's a life/death gamble just to cross some roads in the first place.

(If you're wondering why there is no picture here, it is probably because I was too terrified during the traffic I'm referring to that I didn't happen think, "oh, what a nice time this would make to leisurely snap a few pictures!")

3. If you want to get your feet wet, start by getting them dirty.

You came all this way to be a blessing, eh? Prove it. Cook the food. Wash the laundry. Pick up the trash. This is not a five star bed and breakfast; help. Get your feet dirty.

But if there's a waterfall, just go ahead and get them wet.

4. Hallelujahs, amens, and smiles are universal.


5. Friends can be made even without words exchanged.

Words fail anyways. Learning the language is good, but learning how to smile and love and be appreciative and helpful is actually even better.

6. There's always somebody poorer.

Always. You'll never see the bottom of the totem.

7. If not now, then when?

When's the next chance you'll get to go on a walk with that little boy and exchange language lessons? If now is not a convenient time to help with [insert unappealing task] because you were just about to take a shower, when would be a better time? Next week when you aren't here anymore?  

8. Sometimes the world's greatest views belong to the world's poorest people.

A lot of times, actually.

9. The hardest part of living in the jungle with no A/C, paved roads, showers, or wifi... is leaving.

You learn what matters. Your family matters. But not the wifi, air conditioning, showers, hot water units, fast food joints, or closet space. Just fly your family over, work the tea farm, teach English, and never look back. (These are the plans you think up when you are desperately trying to cling to a way to stay longer.)

10. Take pictures. But not so many that they forget what your face looks like.

I was gone for almost an entire month. You know, I planned on snapping thousands of pictures, and I was worried I didn't take enough memory cards. I only took about 800 photos. EIGHT HUNDRED?! Yes. I'm still mad at myself for not taking more, because when will I get to go back? But, at the same time, I'm glad that I kept my priorities straight, ate meals with the people, interacted, learned some Kachin, and didn't hide myself behind my Canon, documenting everything, apart of nothing. I have mixed feelings on the low number of pictures I came away with, but the pain is eased when I see the hundreds and thousands that the people I traveled with share with me.

11. Family is, after all, a bond that can be personally chosen and thicker than blood. Who knew?

I certainly didn't know. I didn't know that I could meet someone and love them like family after just a week and a half. I love my parents and siblings to the ends of this earth, but aunts and cousins are groups I've multiplied many times over this past spring.

(She was pretending to be exhausted from our hike, so Hawng Dau was fanning her.)
12. Some places you must not wear shoes.

American respect is not good enough. Take your shoes off; don't walk in front of somebody's line of view; serve your elders first; obey. Respect is everything. Respect and traditions.

13. Other places you must wear shoes. Like, you'll probably get AIDs, hepatitis, and tetanus all at once if you try to go barefoot.

Please. Just trust me.

I mean, the chicken-butchering spot and toothpaste-spitting spot are one and the same. And that's only the start of it.

14. It hurts to leave your heart behind.

So much. I'm not even that emotional of a person.

15. When you take your life to the next level, you'll face struggles to match.

Since this list comes straight from my journal, which I wrote in the moment, while in Asia, this one holds a lot of raw emotions for me. I didn't know what to expect prior to leaving on my trip, but I guess I assumed God would hold me in this little worry-free bubble as I served Him.

Not so.

I remember the day, one week into the trip, I was so present-focused. I knew we had almost three more weeks in Burma, and I was all too happy to push the thought of leaving to the basement of my mind. I loved it there. And then BAM! Next thing I know, our time in Burma is sliced down by two weeks and we're in the single digits of counting down before we have to leave; we'll spend the second half of our trip in Thailand. WHAT. No. My world fell apart. I wasn't mentally prepared to deal with those emotions. It wasn't the Devil. God had plans for us in Thailand. God worked through us in Thailand. But that struggle- the struggle of having all of my firmly-grounded plans thrown to the wind- was the hardest thing for me to deal with. It shocks me, in hind's sight, to see what a "normal" thing was my greatest obstacle 10,000 miles from home. It was a struggle for me, though. One that took a few days and a good bit of prayer to get through.

16. Even the old, dirty, broken-down toilets are beautiful when seen from the right perspective.

They just are.

17. Homes still exist where the doors are only shut at night.

It's a way of life, and it's a beautiful thing to be apart of.

18. Just because they have toilet paper at their dining table doesn't mean they have it where it's most useful.

In some places in Asia, toilet paper is used as we Americans might use a roll of paper towels at a barbeque dinner: on the dining table. But they don't see the usefulness it might have in other places...?! Sorry if that's more than you cared to know about Asia. Haha!

19. Your "comfort zone" is not a physical, but rather a mental place.

The same as in point #15. I was actually quite comfortable. Even in the middle of the jungle, with no A/C or internet or cell service, sleeping every night on a bed with four other people, surrounded by 1,800 people that I can't talk to, because of the language barrier, eating snails. I was good. Until plans were changed, and now I have to leave weeks before I was preparing myself to leave. Yikes. That's when God pushed me out of my comfort zone. That's when God grew me, spiritually.

20. They lied. It's not missions work. It's missions fun.

Enough said.

If you liked this post, check out my two posts chronicling the missions trip here (part 1) and here (part 2)!

Update: I wrote a sequel to this post! Check it out here!

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  1. Oh, Kimberly, this post...! I loved it so much, I don't have words. <3

    1. Aww, thanks, dear!! It feels pretty vulnerable typing out what you remember journaling while you were THERE. While crying. While rushing to make it to the services at Jubilee. While sitting in a bamboo forest at sunset. I really poured myself into this one. I'm glad you like it!! <3

    2. Thank you so much for being that open!! I don't know if I could have done that... <3

  2. Kimberly, this is the best!! And the Burma post. And the Thailand post, too. ;) I can't pick a favorite, but this one is really special. It was an eye-opening trip for me, too, and I know how much of your heart is poured into this list. Love it so so much!! <3

    1. Aw, Janan! I love YOU so much! I read a magazine article earlier this afternoon about how you shouldn't share chap stick, and I was just like "Pshh, obviously you haven't traveled the world with any of your best friends, Mr. Writer!" Haha! But yes. You know. Nobody else that ever reads this post will ever understand as much as you do, Ah Shawng!! #GRAIDUMAIYAW

    2. Haha, obviously! Chap stick sharers forever, Kanau!! I'm so honored to have watched this post develop while sitting on bamboo with you. #NGAIMUNGGRAIDUMAIYAW


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