In September 2012, I travelled to
I’ve always loved to travel. I first travelled overseas in 2002 and have now visited 13 countries. I actually sit on an aeroplane and think “How blessed am I to be able to do this?” But my travel has to have a purpose. I can’t just go to some island and sit on a beach for a couple of weeks. To me that’s such a waste. When I came back from
Around the same time in November 2012, I received an email about a Compassion Insight trip to the
To be devastatingly honest, I didn’t think a whole lot about the
So it was with a suitably reserved and subdued sense of anticipation that I boarded a plane at on a Saturday morning, and headed off to meet my teammates. Our team consisted of 12 people and 2 leaders, from 5 different states of
My original plan was to visit my 3 sponsored kids (Cashofia (7), John Dave (8) and Princess Joy (12), who live on three different islands) at their homes and Projects in the first week of the holidays, then join the rest of the team in
Because I was the only team member from
We were a motley crew, and at first glance a combination unlikely to jell. Strangers, really. Fourteen people from five states of
This trip presented a number of challenges for me. I’ll come right out and say it: I am essentially not a people-person. I am not really social, and I am more task-oriented. I relate to people better when we’re doing stuff together, instead of sitting together at a café and just chatting. I’m the sort of person at an eat-and-chat gathering who ends up playing with the kids rather than engaging with adults. Conversation is not one of my favourite things.
I guess I could also be considered a “seasoned traveller.” An early source of frustration for me was in the fact that a fair number of this team were first time international travellers. When you’re in a group of 14, it is impossible to stay out of the way of others, but it is exacerbated when people are just standing there, looking around and unaware of their surroundings. God gave me grace and patience, and I bit my tongue and resisted saying potentially harmful things to team members several times.
One thing that was highlighted for me was the difference between group and individual travel. Before this trip I had been on three individual trips with Compassion to visit my sponsored children: Bolivia/Colombia/El Salvador (2009),
I have to say that on this occasion I enjoyed being a “sheep.” Having someone else in charge of the itinerary, telling me where I needed to be and what I needed to do. Someone else having the responsibility of guiding and leading. Karl and Lil did this very well, I might add, and I couldn’t do their job for quids.
Overall, I concluded that, when travelling, I still like to be in control. In sync with my “lone ranger” personality, I like to know where I’m going and when I’m going to get there, which I can do much better on an individual trip, rather than travelling in a group.
It was also very different for me visiting Compassion Projects and homes with which I had no personal connection. In which I wasn’t the “centre of attention.” While that may sound egotistical, it’s not meant to. Before this trip I had visited 26 kids I sponsored through Compassion. from 19 Compassion Projects. At each one, because it was an individual visit, my presence was the main focus. I enjoyed this, and basically had the floor. I have either sung, played guitar, drums or piano at every Project I have been to, whereas on these trips I took on more of a background role, as part of a team. I still had an amazing time and I was still able to engage with many people during the Project visits on this trip. I’m not saying they were better or worse experiences, just different to what I was used to.
During the trip, the team were also privileged to visit four homes of Compassion-supported families. Previously, the visits I had done were to the homes of my Compassion-sponsored kids, so there was that extra level of significance and personal connection. Having said that, I know that the rest of the team and I were always incredibly impacted by these home visits. Despite the circumstances many of them lived in, they always displayed such joy, contentment, gratitude, generosity and hospitality that came from their faith in God, and the assistance that Compassion was giving their family.
With all the travel I have done with Compassion, and all the experiences and knowledge I have gained, it would have been very easy for me to go into this trip with an attitude of superiority and “know-it-all-ism”. I know it was there at the start, at least internally. Whether it seeped out, you would have to ask one of my team members.
I have to say that I have been so inspired and encouraged by my fellow team members, however “inexperienced” they may be compared to me in terms of Compassion trips or experiences. One couple have been sponsoring a girl for 12 years since she was very young, and got to meet the now-18-year-old on this trip. They have recently sold a property, and plan to use the freed-up money to sponsor more kids and go on more trips. Now that they have seen first-hand what an impact we can have as sponsors, and Compassion has, they are so well-equipped to inspire and encourage others to make a difference.
Another couple’s young adult son severely injured his ankle and had to have surgery in the week before the trip. They had arranged to meet their sponsored girl in the week before the tour, but this had thrown their plans into disarray. Fortunately for all the team, God made a way, and they were able to do the visit and then come on the tour, which was a blessing for all of us.
There was also a young 20-year-old guy who came with his mum and stepped massively out of his comfort zone to experience a different world, engage with people he might not usually have a bar of and impress everyone with his gift of photography.
I loved being with people who are as passionate about Compassion as I am, and this was the main reason I wanted to go on the trip. There were so many inspiring and encouraging moments, and we all concluded that only God could bring together 14 strangers from different parts of the country and create such a cohesive group. While I don’t know whether I will have gained any life-long friends from the group (once again, more to do with me rather than them), the experiences we shared were God-sent, and will always connect us.
One thing was clear, and was confirmed by our trip leader Lil. Every person on this team loved and effectively engaged with every person we met. We showed them the love of God, if only for a painfully short time. With my experience of what I call the “little pockets of heaven” a.k.a Compassion Projects, I personally can’t imagine going to one and not engaging, but according to Lil she’s led groups where the members have intially stood back and struggled to get involved. No such problems on this trip. In many cases we were also the first group or the first people to visit the Project, which was quite significant, and a privilege.
Two guys I have to mention are Ian and Cromwell. Ian is the Tour and Visit Specialist for Compassion
Cromwell has been working for Compassion
Still to come: more specific details of our visits.