This morning I spent some time with three youngsters (I mean I'm old enough to use that word right?) who recently went with their parents and a team from the church on a missions trip. They went to Quito Ecuador, then into the jungle, to a village that had been moved because of a killer mountain slide a bunch of years ago. We are helping them build some basic infrastructure, etc. But it's in the heart of the rain forest, jungle jungle stuff I mean. No hospitals or doctors or police or much of anything. That sort of stuff is over two hours away.
I wanted to meet with them to listen to their stories and if possible, help them process the trip a little bit more. All of the adults I've talked to who went there, to that small, poor, hardworking village in the middle of jungle, came back different people. I've told them they are wrecked for North American life now. Being comfortable isn't enough for them any longer, so they really are wrecked for the pursuit of what we would see as the North American dream.
Anyway I was wondering how these kids were dealing with the trip and the work there.
As kids are they were light and fun and constantly moving, telling how seeing these kind hearted generous people sharing the little they had, with them. They saw the attentiveness of youngsters there, and they witnessed people with nothing, being happy and being content. They were actually in some cases able to give even that kind of language to their observations.
I've always been a proponent of travel being a great educator. When you go to another country it changes you somehow, enlarges your perspective and increases your patience and interest in other cultures. But if you want to maximize your travel dollar to effect your spirit the most, I've always suggested travel to a much poorer place than you live in. See how they live, eat and clean and poop and sing and work where and how they do. See how their kids behave. Observe how they deal with contentment and you begin to realize just how far we are down that road of what we might call progress. Of course they all have their own problems and some of them are even the same struggles as our own culture, but if you are willing it will change you.
And that's not a bad shift in who you are and how you see the world, especially when you are eleven years old.