I just returned from another trip to Haiti with 15 fantastic people. When traveling cross-culturally with a group, people will always be up in your business. I’ve found that there are 5 necessities you need to survive any situation you encounter in a missions trip. I’ve listed them from LEAST important to MOST important.
5. Durable Outfits
3. Ear Plugs
2. Strong soap/deodorant/toothbrush
For introverts, I’ve grouped all patience-testing experiences into three main categories.
PATIENCE TEST # 1 – TEAMS WITH MATCHING SHIRTS.
(Fair warning, this is a pet peeve of mine.) Loud colors and pretentious Bible verses or slogans encouraged! Because if you go on a short term trip, you are more special than the rest of the people in the entire airport and you need a special t-shirt to commemorate it.
Some of the best t-shirt slogans are:
- “For such a time as this.”
- “We help widows and orphans.”
- “Here I am Lord, send me.”
Groups wear matching t-shirts not only so everyone knows what they’re doing, but so they can easily keep the group together. Am I the only one who doesn’t get it? You’re going to a developing country and losing a wandering team member in the airport is a safety concern? Maybe they should give everyone a rope to hold onto. There’s always the buddy system, or we could staple luggage tags to their clothing.
“If lost please return this
bag person to: Cottonwood Church.”
If someone DOES get lost the airport – leave ’em. Perhaps a 3rd world country is not the best experience for that individual.
Another aspect to matching t-shirts is when the matching t-shirt group finally lands at their destination, the airport workers who make a living on tips will know exactly where to make the largest tip.
My process is to send the group out ahead of me. It’s a bit like feeding them to the wolves, but they can instantly share Jesus with 50 new friends and you can sneak through without being noticed. Win/Win!
For such a time as this, right!? Here I am Lord, send me! Well, I don’t know about the Lord, but I’ll push you out the door! Pretentious T-Shirt Success!
Packed item for surviving loud t-shirt groups and wandering team members = Valium.
PATIENCE TEST # 2 – PERSONAL SPACE
Personal space is a big issue. You are now living with people you usually limit to 2 hours at week at church. You are sharing bathrooms and sleeping next to them.
- Developing countries don’t always have luxuries such as flushing toilets or running water. Bathroom topics with your church friends will get very…honest.
Packed item = Valium
- You will probably be sharing a bathroom with 10 others. Emergencies will happen such as running mascara, sickness, really bad B.O (not me of course). Often emergencies happen with more than one person at a time. Things will again get very…honest.
Packed item = Ear plugs. And Valium
- Some people can get ready in 5 seconds, others take 55 minutes. Not everyone will get a shower. Never leave your bathroom items in the bathroom. Your teeth can be brushed with a cup of water over the side of the balcony or window. The same could be said for bathing but that depends how “honest” things get with your church friends.
Packed item = Strong soap and deodorant. . And Valium.
- Sleep. People do bizarre things while they’re unconscious. Snoring, sleep walking, sleep screaming, unwanted snuggling, gas, or a combination (not me of course).
Packed item = Ear plugs in ears, clothes over head. . . And Valium.
- Laundry is not always an option. I’ve learned to wash my clothes with shampoo while in the shower. My clothes are clean every morning and I smell like Pantene. Rinse and Repeat. There is no need to condition your clothing.
Packed item = Durable outfits and shampoo. . . .And Valium, why not.
PATIENCE TEST #3 – PERSONALITY DISORDER
People will get on your nerves. Again, you are sharing everything with friends you never had intentions of living with. All personalities combined with sleep and space deprivation can cause disorder. I was often told growing up I needed to “think before I speak”. For the sake of these trips, I’d like to rewrite to “Medicate before you speak.” If you still feel frustrated after your Valium, then construct of a healthy way of communicating your legitimate frustration.
I have oversimplified every possible personality into 2 categories based on my remedies.
1. Helpless Whiners & Quiet Introverts – This is me. Give me space.
Packed item = double dose of Valium. Duh.
2. Overly Happy & Energetic Extroverts – This is everyone who is annoying. Stay away from me.
Packed item = ear plugs.