The life of a seminary student is not very glamorous.
When I’m not eating, sleeping, or teaching group exercise classes, I’m reading, writing, or studying. These activities may or may not be paired with eating lots of candy and downing excessive amounts of gatorade. Hey, we all have our vices, right?!?
Needless to say, I’m very excited that spring break is right around the corner. While most of my friends will be spending their spring breaks catching up on school work, I (and a handful of fellow Duke Divinity students) will be traveling to Haiti next Saturday. I’m excited and nervous to go on the trip.
I’m excited because I know it’s going to be an awesome opportunity. We are going to be volunteering in orphanages and schools. We may even be getting our hands dirty with construction work when we’re down there. We’ll be meeting our prayer partners and celebrating Ash Wednesday alongside our brothers and sisters in Haiti. In fact, you can even keep up with us while we’re gone by reading our blog. We’ll hopefully update every day.
On the other hand, I’m nervous about the mission trip. I know that I’m going to learn so much and have my eyes opened to things I’ve never seen before. I know it’s going to be transformational, and whether we like to admit it or not, change can be a scary thing. It’s not easy stepping out of our comfort zone and embracing the reality of life in third world countries.
I say this from experience. A year and a half ago I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua with my campus ministry. It was life-changing. It was my first time traveling to a third-world country, and although I had never been exposed to such poverty before, I had also never met people with such unwavering faith.
We worked with families who were literally living on garbage.
And worked with former banana workers who have been left crippled and physically ill due to an illegal pesticide that was used on banana plantations in Nicaragua. My heart just breaks for these lovely people.
You don’t meet such wonderful people, share experiences with them, and leave unchanged. It’s just not possible.
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Haiti was the poorest country long before the earthquake, so I cannot even begin to imagine the sights I’ll see, sounds I’ll hear, and people I’ll encounter. I don’t want to have any preconceived notions, so I’m going in with an open heart and an open mind.
If my mission trip to Nicaragua was any indication, I am certain that Haiti will also be a transformational experience for me. When I came back from Nicaragua, the first thing I saw in America was an automatic toilet in the Atlanta airport. I almost puked. I couldn’t believe that I had worked with people who had almost nothing, yet we don’t even flush our own toilets. Granted, I was experiencing some culture shock, and that’s just one of the realities of mission trips like these: they shock you to your core.
Volunteering anywhere–but particularly abroad–allows you to see just how glamorous our lives are. You see how everyday realities such as a bed and running water can become luxuries. We live in a society where the talk of town is what designer each celebrity is wearing on the red carpet, yet we forget about the unglamorous lives our brothers and sisters lead across the globe. It’s a strange paradox that truly changes you.
As I sit here and think about how I started this post, by saying that my life as a seminary student is unglamorous, I realize I couldn’t be more wrong.
We are all so incredibly blessed–even on our unglamorous days. I have a feeling Haiti won’t let me forget the countless blessings we all have, especially the gifts of faith, hope, friendship, and love. At the end of the day, I think a life filled with those gifts is truly the most glamorous of all.
Has your perspective changed due to a volunteer experience? Share your story in a comment!