In my lifetime, I have had 17 summers. 17 times, I have been given three months to spend however I want. This past summer, I finally got it right.
I spent June in a place that changed the person I am and my outlook on life. My days couldn’t possibly have been spent better. I learned more than I could in any classroom and experienced unforgettable things.
I found a place that touches my mind, heart and soul and it took me four planes to get there. I traveled with Mennonite Missions Network to Indonesia on a mission trip to reach English to children there. I didn’t regret it for a second.
Honestly, I was petrified with the idea of traveling 9,000 mile without anything or anyone familiar to me. I have never done anything like this before. I had not met my travel companions, never even gone on a plane without my parents. We flew from Cleveland to Chicago to Tokyo to Jakarta. But all these new challenges just added to the adventure of it all.
My group for the trip immediately connected with each other (it was four other young women, although at 17, I was the youngest).
I stayed with a host family and it was absolutely wonderful. My lovely host parents treated me both like an honored guest and as a real family member (I even started calling her Mom, much to my own mother’s dismay). Sharing my culture with them and having their culture shared with me was an experience unmatched by anything else I’ve ever done. My hosts opened their home to me and embraced my presence wholeheartedly. I never once felt like I wasn’t wanted there.
Our time was divided between teaching and cultural exploration, and I don’t know which part I enjoyed more! We hiked through a jungle, visited a waterfall, explored temples, sampled foods, shopped at markets, saw incredible architecture and learned so much about local culture and language. We also visited different villages and schools and taught children ranging from toddlers to preteens English words through songs, crafts and skits. [insert photo with children] I brought along card games, and drawing and craft supplies. I also brought my Polaroid camera – which was an absolute hit. They were delighted by the “magic” of the camera producing a photograph, right in front of their eyes.
Meeting those children and making them smile make me so proud and fulfilled. The people I went on this trip with and the people I met while there will never be forgotten because of the amazing impact they had on me. I felt unsure before going, but was overwhelmed with excitement and incredible experience right when I got there. It was definitely worth 48 hours on a place, there and back. I hope to inspire my readers to jump out of your comfort zone and never look back. More often than not, it will change your life for the better.
Editor’s Note: Allison Ervin is the granddaughter of Lehman’s founder Jay Lehman and daughter of VP of Marketing Glenda Lehman Ervin. She blogs for Lehman’s Countrylife with a unique “Youthview” perspective.