Editor’s note: Jessica Witer, of Anna, left May 21 to spend the summer in Namibia, Africa, on a mission trip.
The 21-year-old, self-employed massage therapist is traveling with Experience Mission, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. As she is able and has access to the Internet, she will send tales of her experiences, which the Sidney Daily News will publish as they arrive.
Below is the first of her accounts. In addition, she has sent a letter to the editor, which is on Page 4, today.
I was accepted on the three-month Namibia team in late October, after months of praying, discerning, filling out applicatons and doing Skype interviews. Once accepted, I had six month to raise $7,400. I spent this time writing and sending out support letters to friends and family, posting about the process on various social media accounts, selling T-shirts and planning a 5K fundraiser.
I’ve never worked so hard in my life coordinating all these things, and I’ve never realized until this point in my life how draining fundraising can be.
It’s been so humbling being someone in need, because in our country and in our culture, many people are rarely in need. I’ve been so outside my comfort zone asking people for donations, planning a 5K and leaving Anna for such a long trip.
Finding out what I’m capable of has been so empowering, but being on the receiving end of people’s generosity has been so humbling.
On May 21, my parents drove me to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to train for my three-month mission trip to namibia, Africa. I couldn’t eat much breakfast or lunch, because my nerves were making me nauseated.
I was the fifth to arrive in a group that ended up being about 50 people, all divided into several groups based on their trip length and destination. We spent the first several hours sitting in an ever-expanding circle as more people arrived, getting to know one another. We learned that each group would take their turn making a meal, then ate dinner together.
Afterwards, we sat through our first training session, where we met which guys and girls were on the same team as ourselves (eight others were on mine) and learned more of what we would be doing on these trips. The last speaker was a man named Chris, who founded Experience Mission, himself, only six years ago. He told us his story and of what events in his life, both hopeful and tragic, inspired his decision to start his own mission organization.
The next day at training, we took personality tests to identify which type we are. The only other two people here who were Type 5, like me, were unfortunately not on my team. However, it was awesome being able to tell everyone the details of our personality types to learn how we all act and operate, and how to deal with each of us during our one, three or six months with each other.
After training, we ate dinner together and spent the rest of the night playing games as a group. Our coordinator said we were the friendliest, least awkward group she’s ever managed.
Our third day of training was spent doing team-building exercises and watching informative videos. We were taught how to be culturally sensitive, what was OK and what was not, how our host families were likely to address problems, and we were reminded frequently that this trip wasn’t gong to always be easy or fun. We would be uncomfortable. We’d be hungry and thirsty. We might witness a period of drought.
Our group leaders, who’d been on several of these missions themselves, gave us advice on how to deal with tension, being uncomfortable, going without showers and frequent meals and being expected to do labor. We learned just how important it is for us to approach this trip as a chance to take part in the culture of another people. They reminded us we wouldn’t be there to “fix” anything, that we’re the guests and that we need to let thehosts lead and not try to take charge.
After training ended and dinner have been eaten and cleared away, a small group of us hung up some hammocks between the trees and sat with each other, talking and reading and listening to music. Our fourth and final day of training was quick. We’d leave immediately after the session ended. We went over scenarios we might encounter with host families and finished getting to know each other as one big group.
We left the training center knowing that once we parted ways, we wouldn’t see anyone outside of our groups again. It was so bittersweet, as we were all ready to go, but dreaded saying goodbye.
I’m blown away by the quality of the friendships I made with so many guys and girls from all around the U.S. and in only a short couple of days. I’d told my parents as we drove in that I was afraid I wouldn’t make any friends, that I wouldn’t like them or they wouldn’t like me. But over the course of only four days, i learned so much about the lives of so many people I might have never met had we not all been called to missions. I became so close to so many girls, one of which was Canadian and one who was Australian. I might have never known them or how amazing they are!
I knew that I would make great relationships with the people I met and served in Africa. I had no idea I’d form such strong relationships with the ones with whom I was serving them.