Trent and I went on our first mission trip to Belize a year ago. It was a life changing trip and we couldn’t wait for the next opportunity to go on another. Looking at the upcoming mission schedules, we sadly realized that our work schedules did not coordinate with their trip dates. After praying a lot about it, Trent came up to me one day saying that he wanted to lead a mission trip. At first, we had the idea of just going together as a couple and staying at a local church, but then when I mentioned the idea to my friend Bri (who lives in Hawaii), she told me that she was interested in going. We then opened the idea of the mission trip to our Bible study and long story short, we gathered a team of eight people and we headed out to Thailand. It’s hard to put into words what an amazing trip this was. God had his hand in everything that we did. We would meet once a week a few months prior to our trip to prep and organize. Everyone worked hard saving money, gathering supplies, practicing skits, and studying the word so that they could give their all in Thailand. It was the group of extroverts and I couldn’t believe how amazing everyone did throughout this trip. When you are surrounded by the same people every morning, meal, and night, you would think that it would be easy to get annoyed with one another, but we couldn’t get enough of each other. People travel differently and go about their days in various ways, but what I loved most about this team with their ability to be flexible, understanding, and their gift of loving on everyone that they encounter. Below are images from a mixture of cell phone shots and my camera.
Our mission team stayed at a local church in Hat Yai, Thailand. We were all new at planning a mission trip so we had no idea what to expect. When we arrived to the airport, we were greeted by our host family. They had signs and flowers and they gave us the warmest welcome. The pastor of the church was almost in tears because he shared that he has been praying for a mission team to come to his church, but it was hard to get a group to come out because their church was so small. He thanked us for answering his prayer and gave us the most sincere hug. It was the best way to start the trip and we knew God had big plans for everyone involved.
When we arrived to the church we were greeted by the children who attend the school and they wanted to celebrate our arrival with a community BBQ. It was the perfect ice breaker and such a fun way to get to know everyone.
The food was unlike anything I have tasted here in America. Although, I’m not the most adventurous eater, I loved that they never tried to incorporate comfort food into our trip. They immersed us into their culture from the second we arrived. They would prepare our meals, tell us how to eat them, and they made us try everything.
Eating meals together is a community experience. Neighbors, church members, or whoever is nearby will come into the kitchen and help prepare the meal. I loved being able to share every meal with this amazing group and discuss our mission for the day or reminisce about our favorite moments.
The first half of the day, we would take over the school. We would teach a main lesson and find ways for the students to present what they learned. We would then divide the kids into grades/age groups and create lesson plans and work on their homework. The school is small so it was a very intimate experience because everyone was able to pour themselves into two kids and give them a ton of attention.
During lunch, we would eat and go outside to play games. Soccer was always popular, but our group brought boxes full of crafts as well. Even though it was hot and 100% humidity, we always enjoyed our afternoons with the kids.
Some days, we would walk to the local markets for lunch. The menus were never in english so our host family would order our meals and we would eat what was provided. I don’t know what I ate, but if it was spicy, I enjoyed it.
After lunch, our host family would take us out for a few hours to experience their culture. It was like a mini field trip. They would take us to local temples, churches, markets, the city, and day-to-day sites that the people of Thailand visit throughout their day. The majority of Thailand are Buddhist or Muslim. Christianity is a very small percentage in Hat Yai and it’s important to understand the cultures that surround the nation so that you know how to share the Word of God with them.
After learning about the temples and mosques that surround the city, our host family took us to the jungle. Often times, people are skeptical of mission trips because they post pictures of doing something “fun.” That should never hinder your outlook on someones mission or attending one because that’s usually the only time you are able to get your camera out. It’s hard taking pictures throughout the day because you are constantly working. Whether it was visiting the market, hiking, temples, mosques, churches, caves, a local neighbor, or the jungle, they truly made us feel welcomed and involved. We ate food we can’t pronounce or describe, we met and prayed with so many new people, we learned about different religions, and we saw how creative God is through nature. On this day, they took us to the jungle and we rode elephants. Naturally, we were freaking out, but this is a common thing they do for fun. It is something that we could never experience back in America and has always been a dream of mine. I sat on the neck of the elephant and we walked deep into the jungle, across a river, and near homes made of bamboo. It was such an amazing God moment to see the magnificent creatures along with the beautiful jungle background. God is so creative and an amazing artist. It was humbling to see how simple the people in the huts lived their lives and how much they loved these animals and the nature that surrounded them.
Our elephant “driver” hopped off the elephant and let us ride by ourselves. At first I was nervous and then he asked for my camera in broken English and gestures and I was even more nervous. I gave it to him and he walked in front of us taking pictures. It was a very sweet moment, because these men earn very little and they have a guy who takes one photo and sells them to you afterwards. Taking my camera was a selfless gesture because it could’ve taken away some of their profit because the incitement to buy the photo essentially decreased. We were so thankful and we made sure to buy a picture afterwards as well because we were so thankful that he captured these memories… and that he didn’t drop my camera ;)
It was hard for me to take my camera out throughout the school days because we were on the go from the moment we woke up. However, I tried to take it out with me when they took us through the city because their culture is so beautiful.
This was one of my favorite days. We went to one of the highest peaks in Hat Yai and looked out at the city. We then separated and everyone had personal time with God where we prayed for over the people in Thailand. It was a really beautiful moment.
After lunch and our city outings, we would head back to the church to hang out with the kids. We would finish their schooling and then incorporate a fun activity. In these photos, we divided them into two teams and had flash card races.
I have a fear of talking in front of crowds, so mission trips always used to intimidate me. You never know when or how God is going to bring you out of your comfort zone. Because we were such a small group, we couldn’t assign a few people to do all the public speaking. Everyone had to do their fair share. That is like my worst nightmare! However, He really gave me peace throughout our trip and I’m thankful for all the courage that He provided for me and our team. Each night, we had the privilege of evangelizing for two hours. We visited a local church, school, and we were welcomed into a few homes. The first night was nerve racking, but by the end of our trip it was second nature. Thank you God!
“Heads Up” (known as screamer to others) seemed to be everyones favorite game. You hold hands in a circle and look down. When someone calls out, “Heads Up” everyone looks up and stares at someone in the circle. If that person is staring back at you, you both have to scream and leave the circle. You win by being the last person standing (meaning you never looked at anyone throughout the entire game).
We all got very attached to everyone at the church. Their testimonies truly touched us. Steve was a favorite among our group. He is a man of little-to-no words (probably was hard with the language barrier), but he has this amazing gift to touch your soul. They shared his testimony that brought some of us to tears. He was such a blessing to us!
The next day, they took us to what we called, “Monkey Island.” I expected to see one or maybe two monkeys on this trip. I was shocked when they took us to lunch and we were surrounded by HUNDREDS of monkeys. We had to keep everything close to our sides because these monkeys are friendly and they will walk right up to you and steal you camera, phone, glasses, or anything that is loose. I only took my GoPro out on this day.
One day, we visited a local college to evangelize. This was a challenging day because so many of the students didn’t speak english. However, this is when our church kids shined. They tagged along with us and interpreted back and forth. We were so proud of them!
The local springs and known for healing. They are very HOT! After lunch, our host told us that if we could walk around this spring twice, then we would receive a Thai massage. When we got out of the water, we had a distinct red line from where the water touched our bodies because it was so hot.
It was worth it because these were the best massages that we have ever received in our lives. We all got to lay by one another and we were cracking up because it was painful, but amazing in every way.
Rain or shine, we took to the streets to evangelize to locals and ask them to dinner. We would teach them the word, pray with them, and just love on them.
We were excited to join their church service on Sunday. The night prior, our host asks if one of us could lead the entire service. I’m so proud of my husband who accepted this request so last minute. He did an awesome job preaching. So in love with this man of mine!
On our day off, our team headed to Malaysia. We celebrated Chelsea’s birthday and used the afternoon to relax. You don’t realize how much you exhaust yourself, but after a week of putting our mind, body, and soul into everything that we did, we were excited to rest.
A few of our members haven’t been baptized and we discussed it a few times on the trip. Half of us were in the water while the other half of our team was enjoying lunch at the hotel. It was a beautiful sunny day and out of nowhere, the clouds started to roll in. Mike looks at me and says, “this is it… this is the moment… I want to be baptized.” Mike is the spontaneous member of our group. If he feels something, he will go with it. We titled his life, “Spirit led.” He looks at Trent and says, “Trent, baptize me.” Trent on the other hand is very analytical. He plans things out months in advance and loves to follow schedules. Their personalities are opposite, but they somehow compliment the other. Trent looked at Mike and was like, “uhh, what?” He responded, “this is the moment, I’m ready to be baptized.” Truly, it was a spiritually led moment and half our team swam to Mike and we laid our hands on him in prayer. While praying, I couldn’t help but think what an amazing moment this was and how I wished the rest of our team was around to experience it. Just as we were about to wrap up our prayer, we felt three more hand and the rest of our team joined us. They don’t know why they headed back to the beach, but God’s timing is always perfect. The entire beach cleared from the rain and we were the only ones outside. Trent dipped Mike into the ocean and when he came out of the water, the rain completely stopped. The clouds opened up and the sun started pouring through. It was one of the most spiritual moments I have ever experienced. It’s something that doesn’t sound real, but it was a gift God gave our team that we will never forget.
One the last day of our trip, we just stayed at the church and tried fighting against the time. We were not ready to leave the people that we have grown to love so much. I cried at the church, I cried on the drive to the airport, and I cried at the airport. They followed us as far as they could and waved goodbye until we walked into our gate. Goodbyes are the hardest, but these people will always have a huge place in my heart. I’m so thankful for what they taught me throughout the trip. They gave me new insight towards God’s love, a new culture, new practices, and new places. Like I said, God had His hand in every aspect of our trip. I could write a novel of the things He did for us during the short time that we were there and I’m thankful we were able to experience it together.
Mission trips create unexplainable bonds. Two straight weeks with these people… every meal, every minute, every hour, and I’m still not sick of them. I was already friends with everyone on our team, but I can’t explain how much our relationships grew during our short time together. I now consider them all as family. It’s amazing how much your faith grows when you are able to witness the ones you love serve and praise God throughout their entire day. Everyone has different skills and strengths and I enjoyed being able to watch them all incorporate it into our mission. On the last night, we got to our hotel late and decided we would debrief for only fifteen minutes since we had an early flight out the next day. We wanted to use that time to highlight a person or a favorite memory. Well, fifteen minutes expanded to five hours. These best friends of mine became my family. We cried together as if we would never see one another only to see each other a few days later at Bible study. God knew what He was doing when He organized this team. So many memories I wish I could relive with this group. It was a trip of a lifetime!