I am on the receiving end of short-term mission trips. Now, I am the host for these energetic teenagers seeing the other side of the world for the first time in a 2-week intensive experience. And wow, what a joy they are!!
I’ve heard all the arguments about the danger of short-term mission trips and I’ve even felt the guilt about going on them myself. I wondered if I was just taking work away from the locals or imposing on their system that works quicker without my interruption. I wondered if the money I was raising to go would be better used if I just wrote them a check. But now that I am on the side of the host country with mission teams visiting “my people” and these kiddo’s, I can honestly say they are so needed for our health and vitality as individuals and as an organization. It’s not always about the money or “getting the job done”; we live for relationship, and the ones we make with our visiting friends breathe new life into our spirits.
For me, the first week and a half of life in Nairobi were full of change, questions responded to with ambiguous answers leading to even more doubt, and numbness. I hoped it would improve with time since I am committed to a year, but God wanted to show up quickly so He could show off!
Cue the arrival of 10 hyper high schoolers and their 3 amazing chaperones, as well as the sweet Simply2Love team of 4 ladies! Over 11 days, we all became close friends, and I’m so happy to have 17 new friends praying and supporting CCP from California. It makes a HUGE difference to see the faces in our context who have said they support us. Their actions speak loud; they stepped out in faith to raise support and leave their families and friends for 2 weeks to do life with us in Nairobi! We laughed and cried and sang and danced together! We kissed giraffes, bounced along a 6-hour bus detour (a trip that should have been just 2 hours) through the African bush, were cornered by stampedes of orphan elephants, prayed over the sweet kiddo’s of CCP and their families, and ate A LOT of chapati!
Christ heard me in my loneliness, and He sent 17 reflections of Himself to refresh my heart and soul! I have no doubt in my mind now for the need of short-term mission teams. As long as the visitors are seeking God’s will and supporting the host organization with excited and humbled spirits, they are absolutely a help to us. Let this be encouragement to you as you consider going on a mission trip yourself or supporting someone else who is going!
It has been a whirlwind of a week, settling in to life in Nairobi!
To be honest, I’m not sure how my mind hasn’t imploded from stimulus overload, cultural confusion, and emotional ups and downs.
Christ has been my consistent rock, and the fantastic community who have graciously welcomed me “home” keep pointing me back to Him. That is really the only way this has been possible. His peace transcends understanding, truly. I get this Truth at a new and deeper level being here and being so far from “comfort zone”.
Africa is so stunningly different from America. Everyone speaks English, and they seem to speak it more often than Swahili naturally, which is a blessing. Sometimes they intermix the two in the same conversation, using Shang (Swahili-English slang), and you just have to nod along like you’re tracking. 😉
A couple sweet memories and takeaways from the past few days:
On Saturday I went to a “baby blessing/shower” with my host mama, Anne. You know what’s super cool about how they do it here? You have the shower after the baby is born…so then everyone gets to meet the baby at once, hold them, pray over and bless them! It’s definitely a concept I may adopt one day, Lord-willing. 😉
Sunday was church with my host family. It’s a full morning affair because they’re all so involved with the church. After Sunday school with the youth praise team, Sally (host sis) and I went to the youth service. After praise and some announcements, they had intercessory prayer. It simply means in groups of 2, 3 or 4 with those around you, you tell one another a prayer request and pray for it right then. It may be hard to incorporate in a larger church, but how awesome would this be if “smaller” churches or youth groups did this on a regular basis?? It doesn’t have to take long at all, a few minutes for seat neighbors to get to know each other on a deeper level.
I have felt so encouraged to continue hearing from friends and loved ones in the US and elsewhere who are praying for and thinking of me. Your love and concern is my fuel when it seems I’m not cut out for this work…when the enemy or my own self-doubt would distract me from God’s purpose. Thank you for being Jesus to me in this way!
There is great need, but we serve a GREAT God! I have met some phenomenal people already, and made potential connections to link the work I’m doing with CCP and FTB to willing and able Kenyans. I’d love to tell you more if you’re interested…it’s pretty cool. 🙂
I have been focused on Ephesians 3:12 this week: “In Him and through faith in Christ, we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Be bold in your prayers and PRAY continuously!!
Is the day finally here?! Is it already time to go?!
I’ve been praying over and hoping for this since early December of last year. God’s timing is always perfect as we know…but often forget since we like to take matters into our own hands and think we know exactly when everything should happen.
If I’d had my way, I would have been on a plane first thing after Christmas back to Kenya to serve with Chosen Children of Promise in the Kawangware slum. As it would happen, God had me stay a few more months to pray, fast, and grow our relationship before moving to Africa all gun-ho without a clue. I still don’t have a clue, but it’s a better place to be of acknowledging that than naively assuming I know exactly what I’m walking into. I’m in a new place of surrender and dependence on God. He is my validation. He is my affirmation. And as He “…comforts us in all our troubles, so we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4) Amen!!! I have tasted and seen and felt and received. What a joy to live loved by Jesus and to be an overflowing bucket of His love spilling out to others!
I pray to walk into each day with that image and mindset. On the days when it’s a little harder to do that, I’ll follow the wise advice of a dear missionary friend: pray. When it’s sad, pray; when it’s hard, pray; when you’re tired, pray; when you’re homesick, pray.
Thank you for joining this journey with me! Thank you Jesus for the call and your reckless love.
What’s your first response to this? Probably asking, so what’s the gimmick?
Those who know what couchsurfing is only in its most basic sense question my sanity for staying in stranger’s homes in foreign countries. They ask, “You really trusted people enough to stay at their place…alone?!”
It’s a valid concern to have for a female solo traveler. What gets complicated for me is trying to explain the underlying concept of couchsurfing.com and attempting to articulate “the spirit of couchsurfing” for someone who’s never experienced it personally.
Safety first is the Golden Rule in couchsurfing. I explain this to anyone who inquires about how I’ve managed so far. Once your profile is set up, and you’ve described yourself truthfully in the About and My Home sections, along with updated and accurate photos, you can expect the same from other users. When searching for a host, you simply read through their profile and references. If they don’t have much information up describing themselves or any positive references, that’s a clear sign not to stay with them. Trust your instincts. If something is telling you no, even if they have a thorough profile and positive references, you don’t have to stay with someone when red flags are waving in your mind.
Once you start requesting to stay with people, you can also pick up their vibe from the private inbox responses. If they don’t seem consistent with their profile, move on to the next option, or take a deep breath and just book the hostel.
Couchsurfing is one of those things that you really do get better at and more comfortable with over time. For my very first go at it, I remember sitting outside McDonald’s (for their free wifi) at midnight in the middle of Athens, refreshing my browser every 10 seconds in case I missed a Facebook message from my host while simultaneously wondering if I’d just been hugely punk’d.
He showed up, thankfully, and I felt especially safe at a couchsurfing ambassador’s home, for those of you still worried about my rationale and propriety.
This leads me smoothly into the “spirit of couchsurfing” you’ll catch onto quickly if you ever participate in it yourself. It really is all about the cultural exchange. Hosts are opening their home and becoming vulnerable to theft or damage from surfers. Many surfers are in it only to save money on accommodation. However, hosts can spot these people quickly based on how personalized the request is or reviewing the individual’s profile, and then they’ll be less likely to host them, just as an FYI.
People that get the most out of couchsurfing are those that are in it to meet others, learn about that particular city through a local pair of eyes, and hopefully have lifelong friends all over the world.
You can use couchsurfing.com for more than just finding a sofa to crash on. By using the “Find Events” option, I stumbled upon a meetup in Berlin walking distance from my friend’s apartment. I almost didn’t go because I was “tired” from a long day of watching a German futbol club game and basically doing nothing.
It turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip, meeting interesting people from Portugal, Israel, France, Germany, and Italy, as well as dancing until (dare I say it?) 5 in the morning (dare I confess?) completely sober!
The warmth, generosity, and hospitality you often experience from couchsurfing hosts is incredible, and it sets the tone for an amazing immersion in the new culture. I’ve learned more about cities (local eats, the history, neighborhood vibes, way of life, etc.) through my hosts than guidebooks ever could.
And I’ve experienced more than a few eye-opening, mind-broadening lessons in conversation with the brilliant people I’ve had the pleasure of staying with.
I’m recommending it to all my friends, and I plan on paying it forward by hosting in my home wherever (and whenever!) I settle down.
My History with Couchsurfing the last 2 months (some initials given in place of name for privacy.)
Athens, Greece: A. from Turkey for 2 nights.
We hiked up Lycabettus Hill at night for an awesome view of the city all lit up!
Athens, Greece: K. from Turkey for 4 nights.
Great conversations, fun time exploring the marina, and he was just a sweet person through and through.
Athens, Greece: Meet up with Christos from Athens, motorcycle ride through the city!
Santorini, Greece: Meet up with Jordi from Barcelona.
Rome, Italy: Viky from Hungary for 3 nights.
Nice, France: Max from Nice for 1 night.
Madrid, Spain: Language exchange meetup, met Nikki from Wisconsin.
Paris, France: Alexis from Paris for 1 night and 2 full days of tourist-ing around! We have plenty of inside jokes and even a hand signal for language barrier-related miscommunications.:)
Senlis, France: Meet up with Seb and Marie, both from France.
Berlin, Germany: Meet up at local pub where I met Maddalena, Tufan, and Nora, along with many others I sadly didn’t catch the names of.
Prague, Czech Republic: Dominika from Prague, the proudest American not from America!
I’m already anticipating the day I see my couchsurfing friends again somewhere in the world!