I’ve said this before, and I’ll probably say it a thousand times over, but I really think one of the most educational things you can do is travel. It opens your eyes to new ways of doing things and helps you see yourself a little more clearly. And if you can travel with an open mind, you might even find ways to love people you just met and be reminded that despite all the bad happening in this world, God has so much goodness for us.
When Matt and I both realized we wanted to go on this trip to Budapest, we knew it was the right thing to do despite so much going on in our lives here in America. In Budapest, we’d be working with an awesome team of friends to help with an English, dance and sports camp. This camp is sponsored by a local missions group in Budapest and our church has been partnering with them for years. We’d be working with elementary age kids and helping in whatever way we could. This ended up meaning long hours, lots of emotions, hot temperatures (what is it with Europe still being anti-A/C!?) and some of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
This trip was really cool for so many reasons. First, it was a mission/service trip, so it wasn’t just about seeing the sites and visiting museums. We did get to do that, but the purpose of going on this trip was to love others in a city we had never visited and try in our own way to be a light for Christ. Second, this was a great thing to get to do with my husband. If you haven’t gone on a mission or volunteer oriented trip with your spouse, I highly recommend it. Seeing Matt with the kids and how he handled the total craziness that can accompany a trip like this was so incredible. He was just amazing and it made me love him more than I did before. He’s got such a great laid back personality and trusts that God will provide whatever we need. I’ve learned that these qualities in him are some of my favorites and make me even happier that I get to have him by my side as we take on life. Last, this trip was extra sweet because of the team we had with us. To be honest, I’m used to just Matt and I traveling. It’s been years since I’ve traveled with a group, so this was an adjustment. But, this team hit it out of the park as far as loving each other, communicating and bonding. We were all different ages, but formed this bond that I know we’ll always have.
From our time in Budapest, I learned quite a lot about myself, was reminded to be grateful for what I have and inspired to take on this upcoming school year in America. I would say if anything, it reminded me of why I love working with children so much. Kids are kids and people are people no matter where you go. We were all created by the same God and have the same basic needs at our core. I was so worried about how I would communicate with these kids when I didn’t know their language. And let me just say, Hungarian is SO different from English. I can’t even fake knowing that one. But, I realized about a day into our camp that if I could hug, high-five, braid hair, dance (the universal language) and give thumbs up…I would be just fine with these kids. Hungarian culture is very different from our American culture, because they just come across much more serious and don’t use as many facial expressions as we do. They don’t seem to smile as much, but with the kids, that quickly changed as the camp went on. Eventually, they’d grab onto you and hug you as they smiled, even though they had no idea what you were saying. I was so exhausted from our long days at camp, but it was rewarding and sweet in every way.
One really great moment was after a dance lesson, the dance teachers (myself and two of my teammates) got to talk to our dance girls. We were telling them how they are loved, beautiful and worth more than they know. One little girl started crying and I asked our translator what the little girl was upset about. The translator said she was touched by what we said. I guess we sometimes forget how powerful it is to hear words of affirmation and how important it is for people to hear that they are loved.
Another really awesome part of our trip was getting to spend time with Hungarian teenagers, missionaries and other adult volunteers whom I now consider friends. They were so welcoming to us. They showed us around their city, fed us in their homes and inspired me to love others a little more deeply than I did before.
I was also reminded of the power of prayer and how God comes through for us even when we don’t see the big picture. Here’s a little example of this one. The day before we were supposed to travel back home, our airline wasn’t allowing us to check in to our flight. After some research, we found out that our airline had been experiencing cabin crew strikes and a percentage of their flights were either delayed or cancelled. We got a little worried. We all had to be back at work the next day and didn’t want to get stuck in a random city because of delayed flights. We arrive at the Budapest airport, ready to board our first flight to Paris. We are told that three of our team members don’t have seats because the airline sent a smaller aircraft due to the strikes. Our Paris flight was also getting delayed by the minute, meaning we’d miss our other connecting flights. (Oh, the joys of traveling). We also find out that Paris was a mess due to all of these flight issues. Our team leader had to make a quick decision on what to do and we really only had one good option. Unfortunately, that one option was flying through Istanbul and then taking a straight transatlantic flight back to Atlanta. For obvious reasons, we were unhappy and pretty scared to go to Istanbul given the current issues in their city. But, all we could do was trust that it was all going to be okay, despite not being happy with our situation.
It turns out that our rerouting to Istanbul was such a cool blessing and a way that God provided some rest for all of us. Once in Istanbul, we found out that we all had random seat assignments that didn’t appear to be together. Turns out, we were all seated near each other in first class on Turkish Airways. And let me just say, this was extra elaborate first class. I think that flight back to the USA from Turkey was the most relaxed I’d been all summer. And to be honest, I think it may have spoiled me. How am I ever to go back to economy!? 😉 Just kidding. But, seriously, there were real roses in the bathroom, literally 10 courses for each meal cooked by this amazing chef, slippers, a boatload of movies, comfy chairs with enough room for five people to snuggle in one chair and warm towels for your hands. This whole experience was just a reminder for me of how God meets you where you are and always provides, even when we don’t understand why we are being inconvenienced or rerouted.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Budapest post where I’ll talk a little more about our impression of Budapest, what we loved, a few more pictures and a video of our adventures! Thanks for reading! Also, for those who supported our mission trip, thank you so much for your kindness. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to post any pictures from the camp because of privacy issues. But, I hope you enjoy our photos and videos from our weekends exploring Budapest.