You might already know this and you might not, but for a long, long time my family and I have been planning a mission trip. At last, it's coming.
In June 2012, after much planning and praying, we decided to go to Thailand. Our goal is to share the gospel as well as get to know the people, as in the meantime we brave the Thai villages deep in the mountains in the northern part of the country. We will be teaching English to students at a youth hostel, help them build an extension to the boys' dorm, and share our testimonies.
So, for almost a year, we've been raising funds like crazy. We've mailed out letters, hosted a brat sale, made and sold pizzas...I've grabbed the mike and promoted the trip at the pulpit twice now. Our family has sacrificed the privileges we have - things like going out to eat, the Indy 500, going to the movies, Christmas presents, and camping trips. We have given so much towards this trip and now, in six weeks, it will finally arrive. Gods.
Today was our final meeting in preparation for the trip. Since I am an artist in some sorts I volunteered to lead the students in arts and crafts during the evening. In other words, for over seven days straight, I will be working through an interpreter to teach about 80 students what arts and crafts I can through whatever materials I managed to fit in my suitcase, all the while connecting it to our true mission in coming to Thailand.
We will temporarily stay at a home with washing machines and showers. We will get to experience the famous Bangkok night markets for a day. But when we go to the villages, it is going to be vastly different from the luxurious American life I have become dangerously accustomed to. First, I'm a wintry person; I'll take snow over bug-spray and suntan lotion. Second, I do not like bugs; they freaked me out as a child and I still get queasy when I have to pinch a spider to death. But in Thailand, I won't just be braving the heat and the bugs. I will be on the other side of the world - yes, literally. Thousands of miles from a place I have never left in my whole life.
When your family is sitting around on a Sunday afternoon drinking coffee and sharing the idea of going on a mission trip into the jungle or the desert, you don't really think about what that statement is implying. You only think of the thrill, the adventure, the excitement of traveling overseas. Smuggled Bibles in your suitcase and the Indiana Jones theme playing as the soundtrack of your God-willed escapade. You don't think about the things you will have to live without, the things you will come face to face with. You don't think about the fact that you could catch malaria or that you can never be left alone at night if you're an underage female.
This past week I have been doing just that. Last Thursday, I received two vaccinations and a folder full of health and safety tips for when we leave. Tomorrow, I will start learning basic Thai vocabulary and phrases. On June 11th, we leave at 2:30 AM for a seven-hour drive to Chicago, after which we board a flight for Tokyo, then onward to Bangkok. Just today, I received my plane ticket. I'm holding it right now.
It's no longer a discussion around the family table or wishful thinking after hearing a missionary guest speaker. This is the real deal. My arms are sore from the shots; my money saved for new shorts and flip-flops is in an envelope next to my laptop.
This will be my very first mission trip and my first time leaving the continent. And pardon the profanity (or should I say honesty), but I am fucking scared. For fourteen days I will be severely departed from the life I have always known. No Internet, no writing, no books, no movies, no Twitter feeds, no Starbucks, no weight-lifts and treadmills, no air-conditioning and clean water and candy and cookies.
I am scared, but I am also overwhelmed with the excitement of what could arise in me from this opportunity and this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Everyone, everyone who has done a similar trip has described it as life-changing in such a way that you can never see the world the same way again. (Even Tom Hiddleston, the God of Mischief himself, used almost the exact same words in describing his trip to West Africa last winter.) And if there is one thing a restless, wretched soul like mine could use, it is a life-changer. If there is one thing I could use, it is to at last escape this self-serving, bigoted western culture that I swear will be the death of me if I never get out of this place. My question now is, at what cost will I have this experience? What will I have to leave behind in the States so that I may return a more reformed person, a healthier heart, a cleaner soul?
I'm starting to get an idea. And that's the part where I get fucking scared.