As we have just returned from our first overseas journey with three young children, so many feelings run through my mind as I reflect on all our experiences. In my previous article I shared about hesitations as we packed and prepared to go. (au.christiantoday.com)
So, as predicted, we did have endless discussions about possible crash scenarios on the flight safety cards, many over doses of Minties and travel sick-bags being put to good use, but this was just all part of a great experience for us as a family. It is a really big deal taking your family to a developing nation; actually any new nation is a big deal!
I have been to a few similar countries prior to becoming a mum and have felt relatively confident about overseas travel in the past. However, adding children to the scenario is quite a different story. Filling out five departure/entry cards was a mammoth task in itself, let alone dragging sleepy bodies through customs and going through endless security checks and hoping that we'll find all three children on the other side!
The amazing thing is how adaptable children are. They didn't even question where we would be sleeping as we brushed their teeth in Singapore's Changi Airport on a 9 hour stopover. They didn't complain as we entered 30 degree heat at 5am outside Manila Airport, still dressed for the 4 degree temperatures we left in Melbourne. And they simply stared out the window in awe as we drove out of the airport through the crazy streets of Manila, where the only road rules are first in best dressed and use your horn excessively.
But which Australian child would complain about Milo or porridge made with condensed milk, spending many days straight swimming in crystal clear warm sea water, having free reign at the street lolly stores where everything is 2 cents, being given Coca Cola at every meal, no seat belts and being dirty all the time! Bliss!
Not everything was as easy to adapt to. We were staying with different members of my husband's family during our stay so we were exposed to the day to day life of a Filipino. This was quite a contrast to our fairly comfortable Melbourne lifestyle.
We bathed in bucket full of cold water every day, shared 2 beds between the five of us and experienced heat that was inescapable. There was very little access to the Internet. They do the laundry by hand and the dishes by hand.
Doesn't add up
Our children saw the local kids make cars out of straws and bottle tops, snow out of polystyrene, search for crabs and climb trees to find fruit. They didn't have the latest Apple gadget, Lego, Sky landers or Star Wars toys to go home to. We saw so much poverty everywhere, but so many smiles. It doesn't seem to add up.
It certainly was a family holiday to remember. And not because of the usual holiday type luxuries we normally expect.
We experienced a developing nation as a family and were confronted with widespread poverty we never see here at home. Our children have had the chance to meet many, many relatives who were pivotal in their dad's upbringing. They knelt at the grave of their great-grandparents in a seaside village. And they played with cousins who have a lifestyle and language that is completely different to them. The risks for us were very real, but we were kept safe all the way home.
These are the memories we take with us each day as we pick up where we left off at home. And as we ask the Lord, what does He want us to do from here? How does he want to challenge or change us from our experience? Isaiah 64 verse 8 says, "O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand."
This has been an experience that we desire for God to use, to mould and shape us as a family to serve and obey Him in our lives. May the things we have seen and heard change us for His glory and purposes.
Laura Veloso is wife to John and the mother of 3 young boys. She is trained in child welfare and primary school teaching and has experience in overseas missions and youth leadership.
Laura Veloso's archive of articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/laura-veloso.html