You’ve likely heard the debate about mission trips. On one hand, books and blog posts have cited their potential to do more harm than good. A handful of people with significant platforms have argued that it’s better to send money and prayer-fueled encouragement than a short-term team to do tangible work the locals can do themselves.
On the other hand, those who organize mission trips or youth and young adult ministry veterans who see benefits of adults/teens having cross-cultural experiences offer that it’s more than the trip itself – it’s what happens on the trip that is the real takeaway.
This latter perspective seems to be the conclusion of Moravian’s past and present, and of the more than 60 Eastern District sponsored youth and young adults who have traveled to Cuba to serve, learn, and grow spiritually.
Our Camp Cuba mission experience began in the summer of 2014. Each mission team is involved in cross cultural and leadership training, camp ministry, relational community ministry, preaching and teaching in local churches, and home visits. Sashamarie Long*, a member of our 2014 Camp Cuba mission team and a young adult leader for our 2016 mission team writes:
Going to Cuba I never truly know what to expect. Whether it is seeing God the way I envisioned or renewing old friendships I have made previous years. What I can say is that you can never walk into a mission experience with expectations, because nothing ever goes as planned. The unexpected is often where you find God and an opportunity for change, growth, and learning.
Three things I experience every time I visit Cuba.
I see the world around me differently.
A world were many struggle to manage financially, yet find work to do no matter how little or how big, they find a way to provide for their families and they do it with a genuine smile, with thanksgiving, and with compassion to reach out to others.
I learn more about myself.
A simple trip to the grocery store at home is no longer the same, the amount of clothing I have in my closet is no longer “not enough”. I learn that life does not need to be going in my favor in order for God to be present in it. There were times when I believed that God was only in my life when things were going well, and I only prayed when I was in need of something. I learned that that is not the way I am to live. From the Cuban people I learned that God is always with me. When I am happy and when I am struggling. In all things instead of blaming God or looking for the negative I turn to the light and I ask for God to guide and help me. My faith has only grown stronger, just by experiencing life in a different culture, by walking in the shoes of my brothers and sisters in Cuba.
I believe we are all connected and must work together to make things better.
It is an eye opening and humbling experience to become more aware of world around me. It is eye opening to see that not everyone’s life is the same. Not everyone has the same journey with their emotional and physical health, faith and spiritual life, and or social and economic situation. Yet we are all in this life, in this world together and we must work together to make things better. As one my friends in Cuba said, “ I am happy and I smile, because I want it to help someone else. If I walk around with a smile on my face even if I am not doing great, it will pour onto someone else and make them happy. And that will make me happy.” Her smile did pour over onto me. The connection we made brought a smile to my face and a desire to my heart. A desire to do something each day to make my world and the world around me a better place. A desire to share God’s love with others.
What do you Think? Do you think it’s valuable to invest into youth and young adults to allow them to have this perspective? To give them an opportunity to serve and yet be served, to see the world around them differently, to learn about themselves, and connect with other to change their world day by day?
I do. That is why the Eastern District will once again sponsor a youth and young adult mission team this summer. Camp Cuba – Camaguey will take place August 4ththrough 15th, 2019. This mission experience will provide connections with more than 60 Cuban youth and young adults during a bible camp in Camaguey, Cuba; insight into living in Camaguey, Cuba; and transforming insight into faith through daily spiritual development. Youth and Young Adults ages 16 to 30 interested in participating are asked to request and submit an application, available upon request from Pastor Cynthia at [email protected], along with a letter of recommendation highlighting their spiritual gifts and dedication to their congregation and community, from their pastor and or Board of Elders.
An Ability to speak Spanish is very helpful but not required. The cost of $1500.00 includes round trip travel to Cuba, Religious Visa, transportation in country, camp, tours, meals, and housing expenses.
*Sashamarie Long is a bi-lingual 21 year-old who is currently completing her Nursing Degree. She plans on changing the world one patient at a time both in the Lehigh Valley, PA and abroad through various Moravian Mission opportunities.
The Rev. Cynthia Rader Geyer is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, ED.