Why do I go on mission trips in third world countries?

Why do I go on mission trips in third world countries? It’s a week before I leave for my clean water trip to Nepal and I’m entering a stage of reflection.

I’ve been getting questions from people about my trip:

  • Is your family going with you?
  • Is your husband going with you?
  • Who are you going with?
  • Where will you sleep?
  • Are you nervous? Excited?
  • What motivates you to do these projects?

For many, it seems odd to leave my family for almost 2 weeks with people I barely know to visit one of the most impoverished countries on the other side of the world. That’s 2 weeks I won’t look after my kids. 2 weeks I can’t see my husband each night. 2 weeks of breathing in polluted air, eating “strange” food and feeling the discomforts of not having conveniences like running water. 2 weeks of the unknown.

I will be visiting some of the most desperate areas of Nepal to 1) hand out water filters 2) educate the people on how to use and maintain them to last their 10-year life and 3) hand out backpacks filled with supplies to students who can’t afford to go back to school after the monsoons. I will visit schools, homes and walk the paths these people travel on each day. I will eat with them, spend time to get to know them, and “just be” with them.


Something deep inside me feels a longing to spread hope and comfort to those in the world who don’t have it.

During times in my life, I have felt desperation due to having no hope. Feeling lost and alone, feeling like I was in the dark. Watching the world around me moving forward and people enjoying the gifts of life while I sat paralyzed, feeling invisible.

Growing up largely on my own, I’ve developed strong characteristics of will and strength. I learned early on to fight for the things I wanted and to take control of shaping my own life. (My blog post on How I became a good decision maker has more about my upbringing.)

In my 40s now, I’m living the life most can only dream about. I have a beautiful and healthy family, with the love-of-my-life husband and two smart and confident boys (all can be pains in the butt too, but I love them with everything I have.) I live in a home by the beach in California with views of the ocean I’d be happy living in until I die. I’ve healed my childhood wounds and no longer carry around the baggage of family trauma.  When I look around at all that I have, I feel grateful to have arrived here. But I haven’t forgotten “there.”

I have more connection with the most impoverished communities in other parts of the world because in the US, although there is also suffering and poverty, it’s on a different level in 3rd world countries. In the US, we can be born with nothing and still fight to have everything – and succeed.

In countries with corrupt governments and the lack of natural resources, people are born into their fate without much control for change. Can you imagine the feelings of hopelessness this would invoke?

Before I visited Africa last year to work with Matanya’s Hope, I thought I would meet people and feel their despair, their sadness and lack of hope. But instead, I felt love and pride. These people, although they had nothing, not even clean water or enough food to eat, they were grateful for life. This life – it’s all they know. The kids… they still played, still laughed and they gave hugs.

In their tattered and ripped uniforms, they walked with their heads held high. They looked at me with wonder, curiosity… and kindness. It’s not what I imagined based on some of the articles I read about “the impoverished looking for handouts” and “giving them an excuse not to work toward self-sufficiency.”

This is why I go on mission trips to the other side of the world. So I can be reminded of humanity in it’s purest form. Away from the ranting about politics, or the hateful energy spread on topics of gender, race, sex… all the things we have the privilege to complain about. Watching the news these past few weeks about Kavanaugh made me feel embarrassed for my country. With all that’s happening in the world to report about, this is what is on 24-7. We can blame the media, but they give us what gets ratings. I am 100% behind women’s rights. But the way in which this topic is being reported is in my opinion, untactful. Is this what we most enjoy watching?

So, if you’ve read this far, I thank you for taking the time to look for a moment at my perspective. It’s taken me a while, but I’m proud of where I am!

We can all do good in the world. We can give hope and light to those around us.

Ps. I’ve raised over $15,000 to fund water filters and backpacks to distribute in Nepal! I’d love to hand-deliver a filter or backpack for you. Please donate to my fundraiser with the Waterbearers! I can’t wait to show you the impact you’ve made on people’s lives on the other side of the world!

Maybe one day YOU will want to go on mission trips in third world countries? Let me know! We can plan the next one together!

“Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt.” A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.