International Youth Mission: Jamaica Diaries episode 2, Strangers in a strange land. (w/ Video)

This is the second blog post about our recent youth mission trip to jamaica. incase you missed the first one. you should be able to click the “jamaica” tag at the end of the post and find it pretty quickly.

Chronologically though this is the first post. I want to talk a little bit about what it is like to land with a group of teenagers and adults in another country that is very different from our own.

Why an International Mission trip?

There was a good bit of debate before we decided to attempt this trip almost a year ago. We thought it would be a challenge to pull off, and that if we were measured by numbers, this would not be very “attraction-al”.. if we were only after numbers, certainly a ski trip in December would “pull in” more people. But we really felt that what was needed was something deeper and requiring more of a commitment time/effort/comfort wise.

Couldn’t we just do a mission trip closer to home? 

We could have possible done something like an Appalachian service project mission trip, true, but we really wanted to stretch our limits and do something that we maybe didn’t think was possible going in. And there are a few other benefits that we thought we might see.

  1. We don’t identify with the international church as much as we do with the North American church. so we thought this would help us see the churches in other parts of the world as something we are really part of.
  2. Most segregated hour in the US is the church hour every sunday. I have heard this said, and we really did break out of that in Jamaica. Several of the participants specifically said that was the part they most enjoyed after the trip was over. (I will be putting up a post later about the linkage between a mission trip and “church shopping” and how we might want to do that intentionally at home)
  3. Even the poor in the US are in the top percentages of all people in the world. We have seen and helped poor and homeless in our community, but there really is a order of magnitude difference between our concept of poor and what it takes to be poor in another country. 
  4. Reading about poverty on a web site or seeing an infomercial is just not the same as experiencing it first hand. This ties into the last bullet. I encourage everyone who is reading this to add “DO AN INTERNATIONAL MISSION TRIP” to their bucket list. Make it a resolution, ask about it at your church, find people on Facebook or twitter who are doing it. You simply cannot come back without having the way you look at the world changed. ’nuff said.

Why Jamaica?

There were a couple of good reasons to pick Jamaica for our first international mission trip. First they speak english as a primary tongue, so there is not a need to find people who are fluent in spanish for the trip. We wanted this to be a productive trip and we thought that a strong language barrier would prevent us from getting the full benefit from what is ultimately a pretty short 6 day trip.

Second to the language, Jamaica is relatively close to us geographically. It was not quite a 4 hour flight form DFW to get there, which again given the 6 day length of the trip, kept us from burning too many hours in transit and allowed us to maximize our contact time in the field.

Third, safety. Not everyone equates Jamaica with safety, but when comparing that to a trip into Mexico or Haiti these days, it does come out ahead.

Was there some Culture shock?

Without a doubt there was a lot of culture shock when we arrived. None of us had even been to the tourist part of Jamaica, much less to the parts “outside the gates”. So we were trying to prepare for everything, without any real idea what might be coming. That immersion into a culture where everything is different: cars, weather, people, houses, language, signs, food etc. creates a condition known as “culture shock” it is very real and that is a challenge with international mission trips you should not discount. Also very real is the reverse when you come back into your original setting after having been adjusted to the new culture.

We knew this “reverse culture shock” would be especially acute with our trip since we were going to going from a very poor rural international setting and dropping back in immediately before Christmas and all of the abundance and consumption that powers the American version of that holiday.

Fortunately we stumbled upon Kara Powell’s Book “Deep Justice Journeys” when we were at NYWC in November and bought a leader guide and a copy of the journal for all of the students. This was money WELL spent. If we had it to do over we probably would have gotten a copy for each participant, not just the youth. We had the youth work through the journals prior to the trip, and had sessions every night from the books before lights out at the camp. One of the youth when asked if the journals were something we should use next time said “I would recommend them again, I don’t think I could have gotten through the reverse culture shock without its help”

So What does this culture shock look and sound like..

that is the topic of this episodes video. I intentionally start the video off with a native speaker, so that you can start to get a feel for the sensation of “wait what did he just say” for yourself. So check it out below: