Dialogue with: 2 Students. Multiple Missions. 1 Love.
how 2 students changed their view of the world through mission trips.
By: Chantel Burkes, Houston Community College
Your mission, if you choose to accept it: look into mission trips and volunteering abroad. When college students think about going abroad, they either picture themselves on vacation or studying abroad. A lot of students will not have considered traveling on mission trips abroad because of the spiritual nature they are constantly associated with. However, no one should discount mission trips only on the basis of their occasional religious affiliation. When I began to look into traveling abroad during my freshman year in college, the concept of volunteering abroad caught my eye. While speaking to an international student on the LSU campus one afternoon, something was said that made me think: “The only religious aspect you have to be concerned with is yourself. When you enter another country, you are there for them. When you are there you are giving them their wings and all they need is a new destination to soar to.”
When I arrived at Louisiana State University my freshman year, LSU students Alexandria Andara and Olivia Bankston had been the first to take the time to get to know me. They invited me to experience life on campus and always gave me something new to think about when we spoke. They are open to everyone they meet and have been to a combined 6 different countries. Through mission trips or simply traveling, they are forever changed by their experiences and everyone they have come to know. When asked to give their opinions, I believe Olivia had the most honest explanation as to why students should give mission trips a chance: “When you go on a volunteer trip or mission trip, it is no longer about you. Of course, you will absolutely benefit and change as a person, but the focus is on others and when that happens, your life begins to change.”
Why did you choose the locations you did?
Alexandra: I’ve been to Honduras 3 times on different mission trips and 6 in total, including visits to family. Every time I chose to go was either because there was an opportunity to go and I took it or simply because it was to Honduras and I wanted to go back! It’s really neat to visit the same country different times and each time the experience is completely different than the one before!
Olivia: I am humbled and honored to have been sent to various places- Peru, Bulgaria, China twice, the Philippines and Indonesia. I heard about the Peru mission trip in a girls Christian magazine. I just went because it was the only opportunity I had heard of. The next two years to Bulgaria and China, my church asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes! I fell in love with China after the first trip, which only lasted 2 weeks, so I chose to go back and spend the summer there. I then did a 2 month missions internship with the first month in the philippines and the 2nd in Indonesia. I chose that internship because I fell in love with Asia and caught God’s heart for them!
What was the most amazing cultural experience you encountered?
Alexandra: Specifically, in Honduras everyone is very hospitable. Even as we would go house to house telling people about an event that was going on later that week, people would invite us inside and give us mango, which is SO much better there, and something to drink, usually a drink called Tropicana: Banana Flavored, which is my favorite!
Olivia: We woke up around 5 or 6 am one day and had no clue what the plan for the day was. There we stood, clothed from head to toe with headscarves in the blazing summer. Thousands of students were waiting to hear from us and as we walked in, they all cheered. We quickly noticed the national television cameras that were also there. This was obviously a big deal! It was Q&A style- they asked us questions and we took the mic, taking turns answering. The best part was when a student asked us to sing Justin Bieber’s “Baby.” Unforgettable.
How did these trips impact your growth as a person?
Alexandra: I like to think that I’ve carried these traits back with me, simply by inviting people over and just talking and getting to know them. Being more hospitable can definitely be more than a culture thing and I would love to share this with others.
Olivia: These experiences shape your life. I grew in maturity through working with teams of people I never knew, going out of my comfort zone every day in every way, flying across the world- alone. Trying new things, meeting people that I still speak to.
Any tips or advice to prospective travelers?
Alexandra: JUST DO IT! Trust me, it is so worth it! It is also amazing to see how much you can grow from just going somewhere different for a few weeks or a few months! You learn how to be FLEXIBLE, which more people should work on. You learn how to make decisions and make friends. Plus, you get to see more than your corner of the world!
Olivia: Pray. A lot! Educate yourself about the culture you are entering, some basic words and phrases, etc. Make lots of copies of your passport and put it in different bags and places in case you lose your passport. Maybe even write yourself a note of why you choose to go, so that when you are there and forget why you ever chose to go to that place, you have something to remind you.
These 2 students managed to find their way across the world, impacting others and changing themselves. If you consider mission trips or volunteering abroad, you could be the next.