[x_text class=”justify-text “]My suitcase is still sitting in the middle of my living room, clothes spilling out the sides like extra wrinkly treasures. Between looming deadlines at work, catching up with friends, and fighting off the evil jet lag overlords, I’ve barely bothered attempting to unpack. Part of me is just too exhausted, and part of me just isn’t ready to finish processing this trip to Greece, stacking everything neatly away in its regular place.
I’ve taken the same suitcase to Greece with me four years in a row now, the edges and corners beginning to fray a little after eight transatlantic journeys. In these past four years, I’ve learned a thing or two about what to bring along on trips like this and what to bring back from the field.[/x_text]
What To bring Along
Limited Expectations[x_text class=”justify-text “]Don’t get me wrong – expectations can be helpful. Research is good. I was never a Girl Scout, but I am a fan of being prepared for anything. Expectations can be tricky, though, trapping us into a too-small box that won’t allow for the beauty and excitement of experiencing something new. Limit those hemming-in expectations so you can make room for all God has to show you.[/x_text]
A Spirit of Fluidity[x_text class=”justify-text “]During trip training, we hammer into our team that we have to be F L U I D. Travel can be messy, and ministry is always messy – delayed flights, missed connections, lost luggage, transportation strikes – all of it is part of the experience, and sometimes it takes royally botched plans to get where God intended you to go in the first place. Don’t bother being flexible. Just move straight on to fluid.[/x_text]
A Journal[x_text class=”justify-text “]This may seem hippy-dippy, but seriously, write it all down. Let me repeat that – WRITE IT ALL DOWN. When you’re in a new environment, surrounded by languages, smells, etiquette, and expectations that are foreign to you, it’s a guarantee that you’re going to be overwhelmed and just shut down. Write it all out. Get it on paper. Put it down outside of your head and take some time to examine everything that’s happening from a different point of view. Also, I triple pinky promise that you won’t remember the majority of the things you swear you’ll remember forever. WRITE. IT. DOWN.[/x_text]
Google Translate[x_text class=”justify-text “]I have now passed for a Greek about seventy-five times because I took a few minutes to translate a couple of easy words to help me navigate Greece: “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” will take you far.
I’ve also been able to push through a lot of initial barriers by being willing to clumsily say things like “hello” in Farsi. If nothing else, I brought a few smiles to people’s faces and gave them a giggle at the very pale American trying desperately to communicate.
It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. You’re going to look ridiculous, but make the effort! Try learning (and using) phrases in someone else’s language when you’re trying to reach out to them. You’d be surprised how far it will get you![/x_text]
What To take home
Photos[x_text class=”justify-text “]our trips to Greece, and I’ve had my fill of Parthenon paperweights and “It’s All Greek to Me” t-shirts. This trip, I brought back some much smaller souvenirs: an envelope of leaves from a night of ministry at the park and a box of Iranian tea. To the casual observer, these items clearly don’t indicate that I just spent a week in Greece, but to me, they bring back powerful memories, sights, sounds, and smells I’d rather not forget. Yes, bring back the Spartan helmet for your little brother and the caryatid carving for your mom. Just make sure you bring back the meaningful mementos too.[/x_text]
Tiny Mementos[x_text class=”justify-text “]Four trips to Greece, and I’ve had my fill of Parthenon paperweights and “It’s All Greek to Me” t-shirts. This trip, I brought back some much smaller souvenirs: an envelope of leaves from a night of ministry at the park and a box of Iranian tea. To the casual observer, these items clearly don’t indicate that I just spent a week in Greece, but to me, they bring back powerful memories, sights, sounds, and smells I’d rather not forget. Yes, bring back the Spartan helmet for your little brother and the caryatid carving for your mom. Just make sure you bring back the meaningful mementos too.[/x_text]
Stories[x_text class=”justify-text “]You are going to get asked pretty regularly how your trip went. Some people want the three-sentence answer. Some people want the three-hour answer, complete with PowerPoint presentation and accompanying weeping. Whichever your audience is looking for, you have the chance to share some of the powerful stories you witnessed during your trip.
Fair warning: it is all too easy to paint a flat portrait of the people you’ve met, reducing them to caricatures or “ministry opportunities.” Make sure to leave room for people to be people in your stories – complicated, messy, beautiful people.[/x_text]
Preparedness[x_text class=”justify-text “]It might seem odd to come home and be prepared, but trust me, a life-altering, norm-shaking trip like this will leave you bewildered and frustrated and unsure of what comes next. You’re going to be sitting in your regular staff meeting, thinking to yourself that none of this is as meaningful as the week you just spent serving somewhere else.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Harness that restlessness. Drop it at the feet of the Savior. Ask Him to show you just how to use all you’ve seen and felt and done in your everyday life. And then be prepared for Him to take you up on that and turn your world upside down.
This trip was especially significant for many of us on the team. As my coworker Evan put it, this trip has rearranged a lot in my life in a very short period of time. It’s hard to wrap up my thoughts because I’m not done processing. I’m not done putting a name to everything I’ve seen and felt and experienced. There are still stories to tell and tears to cry and prayers, oh so many prayers to lift up for the beautiful, broken people in Greece.
If you’re in NOLA and you see one of us looking slightly lost and overwhelmed, ask us to tell you about our trip. Sit down with us. Have a cup of coffee with us and listen as we try to talk through all God is doing in Greece and how we caught a brief glimpse of that. And if you’re not around, pray for us – pray that we will carry our changed-ness into our everyday and use it for His glory.[/x_text]