In an older post, I mentioned a little bit about a missions trip I took when I was 17. If you’re interested in what led up to the trip and what started it off in a somber mood, then you are welcome to go back and read it.
I was asked recently about what made that trip bad…Well, I hate to go so far to say it was BAD completely because it was a life changing experience in which I learned so much and I grew a lot. It did rival my later honeymoon for negative happenings, though. Instead of responding about what exactly did go wrong on that trip in my comments, I decided I would go ahead and do a post about my trip. It WAS back in 2001 so forgive me if every little detail is not as fresh on my mind.
Back in July of 2001, I headed off for Wales on a missions trip. I was 2 months short of 18, had just recently graduated high school and while I had flown on a plane before many, many times, this would be my first time flying completely alone. I was excited but also scared…I had always been a momma’s girl and though I had been away from her before, this was the first time I would be away for 2 whole weeks in another country. I admit I cried after I said goodbye to her and got on the first plane. The first plane landed in Pennsylvania where I was to meet some other people and stay with all the others going on the trip for the night. I was extremely shy and nervous…I was going from Texas to Pennsylvania all alone, meeting complete strangers and spending the night at someone’s house that I had just met. To make matters worse, on the way to the airport I had realized that I had forgotten some medicine at home that I would need. We weren’t able to get it before I left so my parents actually got them to call it in to where I was staying and some of the people went and got it for me!
There was one girl I met that night, named Kimberly. Me and her hit it off right away. She seemed more of a loner type just like me and she was so sweet. It was a breath of fresh air to find someone that I felt comfortable with. The next morning, we headed back to the Pennsylvania airport and flew to Heathrow Airport in London. Of course, I was seated with some of the girls that were going on the trip so I had to make small talk and it was a hard thing for me, honestly. I enjoyed the plane ride, though. We had a personal TV on the seat in front of us and we could watch movies, tv shows, listen to music…it was pretty cool. It was a long flight though, about 7-8 hours long and since we were leaving during the day our time, we would be touching down early morning their time. So when we got there was basically when we would normally be going to sleep. I tried to sleep on the plane but it didn’t work. I’ve never been very good at sleeping in moving vehicles…whether on the ground or in the sky.
The first thing I remember when we got off the plane was all the people pushing and shoving in the airport without as much as an “Excuse me” or “I’m sorry”…I remember thinking these people were very rude! After we had got all our luggage, we headed outside to wait for our bus that was going to drive us to Wales. It turned out that the bus was waiting for us on another floor so we ended up waiting for well over an hour before the misunderstanding was cleared up and we were finally off. Then came the billboards and ads with half naked people causing my jaw to drop. Apparently Europe is a lot more secure in the nude body than America is….I had a really good shock to my system there. We also had a bit of a holdup at one point because some sheep were blocking the road. I thought that was actually rather funny and I did manage to nod off for a bit while we were stopped so no problem there!
We didn’t get to see much of London, to my great sadness, because I have always wanted to tour there but it was a missions trip after all, so it wasn’t supposed to be a tour or vacation really. We ended up stopping for awhile at this little convenience mart place that had food, drinks, a little cafe and a little store. Before this trip, I had been trying to avoid caffeine because my doctor thought it was triggering migraines for me so I decided to buy me a Sprite with some food. I don’t believe I finished that Sprite because the first sip I took of it made me gag. How very horrid! Who knew a soda could taste so different in another country? I thought they all tasted the same! Nope…there was no way I was going to be able to make it the whole time drinking that stuff. I ended up later in my trip buying a Pepsi and was very excited to note, it tasted the same to me! : )
While I like to see new things, sometimes a bit of what you’re used to in a new place can make you feel right at home!
Fast forward to us finally getting to the place we were going to stay, which was an old YMCA building in a part of Wales. We stayed on the second and third floors and there was a daycare on the bottom floor. It was a very old building that looked like it had seen better days but it was big and there was this huge living room space with tons of comfy chairs and couches for us to sit and have our little meetings and talks. Since there were so many girls on the trip, there was one huge room that had about a dozen beds in it that us girls were to share. It seemed like all the other girls knew at least one other person and they got to the room first, leaving only one bed that was far against the wall. Honestly, I left my bags at the front of the room, went and sat down on the bed I was to use and just cried. Other than the one girl I had hit it off with a little so far, I didn’t feel the love for any of the other girls and I felt extremely lonely. I had never been put into a situation where I was to share a room with dozens of girls and I was more than just a little nervous at the idea of having to change in this room with them. As a big girl, I had always changed in bathroom stalls at school or not at all. To say I was shy would have been the understatement of the year.
Luckily, I was looked on with sympathy and given a room down the hall from the girls room. A single room no one was using. I’m not sure if any of the other girls looked on me with hatred because they thought I was shown favoritism or something cause they seemed to enjoy being with their friends. I was just extremely overjoyed that I had my own space where I can change clothes and go to bed at night when I wanted to without all the chatter around me. I went to bed that first night clutching my pillow I brought all the way from Texas and I cried into it. I cried because I miss my mom. I was 17 and I missed my mom….I was in another country for the first time surrounded by people I just met and most of them, I didn’t feel comfortable around. There was a window in the room that looked out on the corner of a street and right below was one of those bright red phone booths I had always seen on television. This was such a new experience for me and so many mixed emotions were going on inside my head. Fear, Sadness, Loneliness, Excitement, Joy…..and I still had almost two weeks to go in my journey.
How would I get through it? Would I overcome and learn to love this experience or would the experience swallow me whole?