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World Humanitarian Day 2016 – Beth

Beth Banfill, Raptim Humanitarian Travel

During my freshman year of college, each student was challenged to participate in an overseas humanitarian or mission trip before graduation. I accepted the challenge and joined a team of 17 students who were going to spend nearly a month in Australia that summer. It was the summer of 1988 – the summer my life’s DNA changed.

“For the first time ever, my eyes were opened to a world beyond myself.”

I no longer looked through life with my middle-class American glasses, as I realized the poverty and needs that actually existed outside of my small, self-centered world. As I camped in tents in the Bush country of Australia, I felt a tugging on my heart to be open to helping others full-time. If you knew me back then, you would know that just going on one trip was a stretch - serving full time was something I would never even consider to be a possibility.

Even though I reside in the USA and have a “regular job,” I do consider my life’s calling to be one of service. Twenty-five years ago, I married one of those students from my very first trip to Australia. Together, we have tried our best to raise our family with the responsibility to see beyond ourselves and our own circumstances. Since that first trip in 1988, I have participated in about 20 other overseas projects in Colombia, Tanzania, Zambia, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Central Asia. The work I’ve been involved in has ranged from helping nationals with various service projects, sharing my faith, working to start churches, and while in Zambia, acting as a “Camp Counselor” whose sole purpose was to love on 10 beautiful orphaned girls, one of whom we now sponsor every month.

“I hugged every child that would let me.”

Just two weeks ago, my entire family returned from working in the villages of Tanzania. Once again, my heart was broken for the people, from the young to the old. I hugged every child that would let me. From Queenie, Sabena, and Rachel – the children whose names I remember, but even more important to those children are the ones I hugged whose names I don’t even know. The children with distended, parasite-filled stomachs; the children with runny noses; the children with other children on their backs; the children with no parent or adult anywhere in sight. The children who need to be loved and hear about love.

After every trip, I come back with a changed perspective on life.  I am humbly reminded that no matter the region I’ve worked in, the people give back to me far beyond anything I give to them by choosing to go.  Some people don’t understand this kind of perspective.  If you are one of those who scratch their head and “don’t get it,” take the challenge to GO.  Look beyond yourself, take off the world-view glasses that you have worn your whole life, and open your heart to love others in a new way.  Giving to the cause is good.  Helping others to go is great.  But taking the opportunity to allow yourself to be changed from the inside out is something you can’t experience unless you take the challenge and see how love can multiply far beyond what you even knew was possible.