Cory and I have gone on a variety of short-term mission trips throughout the years, but this was our first trip as a family with small children. I know not everyone’s experiences will be the same, but I want to share a little of what it was like for us.
This is a picture of the kids in the Puerto Rico airport on our way to St Croix. We left our house around 6:30pm and had been travelling for almost 12 hours already. They had slept for about 4 hours on the first flight and I was attempting to get them to take a nap. It didn’t happen. They were in really good spirits and having great attitudes though, so it was okay. After they rested for a bit we let them watch a cartoon and attempted to power-nap on the super uncomfortable airport chairs.
One thing you need to realize before travelling with children outside of the safety of the US, is that other countries (and territories) don’t quite have the same safety guidelines. Connor rode in a car seat ONE time while we were gone. (and yes, I did move the chest clip up to the appropriate height before driving)
The rest of the time we were on the island we rode around in giant 15 passenger vans. Sometimes the kids had seatbelts, and there were several times they didn’t. While that isn’t ideal, and my safety-conscious mind kept playing disaster reels through my head, it’s just something you should expect.
Before travelling to St. Croix, I showed the kids pictures from the YWAM website and facebook page to try and familiarize them with where we would be going. Of course the one thing that stood out the most to them was the pool! The minute we arrived at the base they were begging to swim, but they had to wait until the next day as it was almost dark.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to food, but I knew if all else failed, they could eat PB&J every day! There were only two meals that Jenna wasn’t very fond of (chicken enchiladas and sheep stew) and as for Connor… Well, let’s just say he ate better than I expected.
When travelling with picky eaters (Connor), you have to decide if you want to pack food you know they’ll eat, or just hope they’ll eat something and not starve. We did a little of both. Mostly because we knew groceries on the island are quite spendy, so we brought extra granola bars, fruit strips, applesauce, and peanut butter.
One of the great things about homeschooling, is that it’s easy to bring school with you. All of the kids that live on base are home schooled as well, so it fit perfectly in the schedule for our kids to do school in the mornings. We only did school for the first week though, and took a break the second week.
On Friday mornings, other home school kids from the island come to the base and they all get together to do PE classes. Our kids had a blast joining in with them! There are also dance classes once a week at the base and Jenna was invited to join. They did ballet for the first half and hip hop for the second.
It was really refreshing for me to be surrounded by so many home school families. Not only is it fun to explore the different curriculum and styles everyone uses, but it was refreshing for the kids to fit in and not have to answer so many questions about their schooling.
We prepared the kids before leaving as much as possible, by explaining that we were all going to St. Croix to help others. That meant that they would be helping wherever possible. One of their favorite “jobs” was getting to take care of the chickens every day with Miss Vanessa. She taught them how to care for the chickens, feed them, and collect their eggs.
Jenna washed A LOT of dishes while we were gone. I was really proud of her willingness to help, and not just when we asked her to. She volunteered to help with different tasks all throughout the week.
Of course the kids had plenty of time to play with their new friends. The base is 5 acres, but is fully fenced so it was safe to let the kids run around and explore. Their favorite places to play were the rubble pile (a giant pile of rocks behind our house), the jungle (an area with some trees, and unfortunately some termites), and the tree-fort (a deck underneath a tree).
They were grubby and stinky the entire time we were there, but they had so much fun!
They played hard and were rewarded with skinned knees (over and over), scraped up backs, bumps on heads, and plenty of bruises. Miss Vanessa was always there ready to clean and bandage them up. She was a lifesaver for all of us while we were in St. Croix and the kids absolutely adore her.
Of course we made time for fun adventures while we were gone too. The kids go to go to an event called Jump-Up in Christiansted. They especially loved the snowcones and mocko jumbies.
They had a couple beach days and Connor actually went into the water (overcoming his fear of oceans) and Jenna learned how to snorkel.
There is so much value in letting your children explore the world. In the past two weeks the kids learned about new cultures, thankfulness for our living situations, wildlife (including “lizard friend” who lived in Connor’s room), geography, and so much more.
Most importantly, I hope that my kids can grow up knowing how important it is to serve others.
I am so incredibly proud of these two kids!
**Also, in an attempt to not make this the longest blog post ever, I omitted several topics such as “how to travel with kids and maintain your sanity” and “the importance of flexibility” and “you don’t have to be rich to travel the world”. If you want any advice, feel free to send me a message 🙂