25 Apr 2017 How Has Travel to the Philippines Changed My Life?
How Has Travel to the Philippines Changed My Life?
At the age of seventeen I took my first international trip. With Teen Missions International, I traveled to the island of Mindanao in the Philippines with the objective of constructing two church buildings over a six-week stay.
The adventure began at Teen Missions’ bootcamp in Florida. After completion, I journeyed with my team by bus from Florida to California, flew to Manila in the Philippines, and then ferried overnight to the island of Mindanao. The voyage was rough. A storm was brewing and the ferry struggled desperately to stay ahead of impending doom. The waves grew throughout the night, tossing the vessel about like a child’s small toy. By sunrise the storm was over. After safely docking, we made our way inland via the back a truck.
The team consisted of thirty teenagers and six adults. This was not a luxury venture, and our accommodations were rustic. We brought our own tents and dug pit toilets. Each day it rained steadily for two hours. Everything remained damp or wet for the duration of the trip. One night a monsoon struck the island. We slept inside the only wooden building in the village. Lying awake, we listened to the wooden shutters slamming back and forth throughout the night, getting up occasionally to peek through the cracks in the walls to watch the palm trees dancing in the night. The howling wind sounded like a dying animal, stealing away any possible sleep.
By morning the storm was over, and the devastation was realized. Village shacks were no longer standing, lean-to housing was non-existent, and people wandered about picking up scrap with which to rebuild. Our thirty-six person team began to help. We worked side by side helping villagers reconstruct their homes. We were there to build churches, but for the time being it was our privilege to help rebuild their lives.
Eventually we completed the two construction projects. The locals were grateful for the new cement-block buildings constructed for them to worship in. However, I believe they were more grateful for our contributions helping them rebuild their lives and town following the storm than they were for the churches themselves.
One evening the entire village set up tables and brought food they had prepared from in their homes. As a teenager, much of the food did not look appetizing. Our leaders explained that these people probably would not eat for the next day or more because they had given us all that they had. We asked the villagers to join us in the meal. We smiled and thanked them, knowing they had given out of their poverty.
So what came out of this teenage travel adventure? Twenty-three years later I founded an international children’s nonprofit called “A Touch of Hope.” The premise was “kids helping kids.” That teenage adventure taught me how much God can use children and teens to change the world – not only in our efforts to build a building but also in our willingness to help out when we saw a need. This is what touched my life and the lives of the villagers and me on that trip. Kids need to know they can make a difference in the world. They need to learn to reach out and help others when they see a need. This world is a difficult place for many, and those of us that have an ability to help others should do so. What better way to build self-esteem in children than to empower them.
I supervised A Touch of Hope for seven years. Hundreds of children helped raise funds for food and education projects. Many children traveled with me to deliver supplies to the children in third-world countries.
A Touch of Hope’s final project was to raise enough funds to provide the materials and supervising professionals necessary to construct a school building in Zambia, Africa. Two hundred and fifty villagers came out to help build the school once construction began. I watched women carry baskets of water, rocks, and sand up from the river to use for the building process. I spoke to the people about how children and adults helped raise funds for the project.
Today 350 students fill the school. The government in Zambia provided additional teachers and materials, and another organization dug a fresh-water well for the people. Two years later, a medical group established a clinic in the village center.
So how has my life been changed by travel? Traveling is an opportunity for me to meet, inspire, and help people. It is about encouraging others to reach out to those in need and give their travel experiences some real purpose and meaning. My travel experiences are fun and exciting, and they often change the lives of others in the process.
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