I cannot stand when people go on two week mission trips to third world countries to work in an orphanage. I know this most likely sounds selfish but I will explain.
I want you to put yourself in the shoes of an orphan. At the age of 1 years your father passed away in a car accident and your mother took care of you as long as she could. Money was becoming an issue and so not long after she dropped you off in the middle of the night on the steps of an orphanage. You have never seen you mother since that night. The sisters running the orphanage graciously took you in as their own.
As you’re growing up you have those broken memories of your parents but not enough to be at peace with the situation. You are staying with 50 other kids between the ages of 1 and 17. Every two weeks people come in to meet you. These people are usually from a different country and have many questions. You answer their questions, play with them but after two weeks it’s time for them to go back home. You thank them for visiting and beg them to come back knowing full well you won’t ever see them again. Another week, another group of people to meet, the same questions being asked and still no one to open up to.
Yes, I know this seems harsh. I admit, I have done a two week mission trip and it was the hardest thing for me to do. I stayed at an orphanage and helped the children with their homework, played games with them and heck, I even taught some of them how to skate board but I feel guilty for going there.I also admit that I learned a lot and was able to share my experience with other people I encountered but I feel as though I have left something unaccomplished by going there. I felt I played more with the emotions of those at the orphanage than actually helping them. Also, because I was only there for two weeks I wanted to take advantage of the time to do some sight seeing and meet up with a few people I knew but because of that the children might have felt ignored. Making them feel ignored was far from my intention but that’s the way things happen.
Thankfully I was able to keep in touch with some of the workers there, one of the religious there and I chat every once in a while and he keeps me updated on the children. I keep praying for these kids but it’s absolutely hard not being with them and I can’t imagine what they are going through.
Through this experience I was reminded about how blessed I am with such a rich but also a poor life. Rich in the sense that I don’t need to worry where I will sleep, what I will eat or about my safety. Poor in the sense that because I have all these things I take them for granted. It’s because of this experience that I learned that the more I give the more I receive. I don’t mean this in a materialistic way (even though sometimes it does happen). I mean it more in an emotional and spiritual way. The more time I spend in prayer the closer I feel to God. The more time I spend with those I love better our relationships will be and deeper the trust.
I didn’t meant to make these mission trips sound so negative, there is definitely some positive such as growing in faith, love, joy and peace. But, now think about the following for a second, what do I gain from helping children in an orphanage in a third world country? What do these children gain with my presence? Two very similar questions but with completely different answers.
If you have been following me since the beginning you probably remember my first few blog posts. I was a missionary in Haiti for just under a year. Honestly, I believe that if you really want to experience life in any other country, learn a language, learn about a culture, make lasting friendships and leave a mark you need to give it more than two weeks. It takes time to build trust, it takes time to build that comfort and it takes time to see the true beauty of life. The children in Haiti didn’t open up to me in the first two weeks because in their mind they thought I was going to leave right away. The children didn’t even open up after a month, or two or three, it took time, A LOT of time! But then again, staying there for just under a year also hurt them when I left because they finally started opening up and…. I had to leave.
It’s a win-lose situation. I’m sorry if I have insulted anyone, that was not my intention. If I am wrong in any of this please do tell me. I would like to hear about your experience on two week mission trips.
My Catholic Living 🙂