Currently in the United States, in order to do anything, you need to be qualified or have experience. I’ve found that this can make it really difficult to actually get the experience people expect you to have. The unique thing about being on the missions field is that they mainly want people to be there and be willing to serve. Willingness and just a little bit of skill is pretty much the only qualification that you need.
I most strongly experienced this while I was in Yaoundé for the week with VISA issues (click to read more about that and what I learned from the experience). I went into the capital city assuming that I would have a lot of down time to read and write while I waited to get my VISA issues sorted out. However, I was hoping to be able to see some other ministries while I was there. I had heard that one of the international schools that a lot of World Team missionary kids attend could use help, but I might not be “qualified” because I didn’t have the correct clearances.
When I arrived, I found out that they would love to have my help in the library for a day or two. Their librarian was a Cameroonian guy that was so friendly and instantly had me doing all sorts of tasks: restocking books, laminating, putting books into the system, etc. I had always dreamed about being a librarian (fun fact: TOTAL book nerd) and this was my dream come true. In the United States, you need to have a degree to work as a librarian or some sort of experience to even volunteer. In Cameroon, they left me alone and in charge after being there for only a couple of hours!
I showed a willingness to serve and learn something new and that got me an experience that I will cherish moving forward. Also, while at the school, some of the teachers found out that I was a Communications major. Their PR person at the school was a volunteer, so I was able to design a flyer for recruitment and speak at Assembly about what a Communications degree can allow you to do. By speaking up about my passions I was able to use my skills and make the most out of what could have very easily been a very stressful week of waiting.
In addition to this experience applying to me on the missions field, I think you can encounter this while traveling in general. Every culture is unique; so, while traveling, keep an open heart and mind for service. By being in tune with how you can serve people while traveling, you could encounter incredible opportunities. It’s one thing to go to another country and see cool things and leave with really amazing photos; but it’s another thing to be able to leave not only with really cool experiences but also the privilege to say that you impacted someone else’s life.