This summer I had the privilege of backpacking through Europe for two months on a missions trip. Now, when people found out I was going, most of them reacted with, "Wow, Europe for two months — some missions trip." However, Europe is actually one of the least evangelized continents. Those people think they have it all. They’re not starving, living in a dirt hut or being oppressed by cruel dictators. They like their lives, and because of that, trying to evangelize in Europe was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever had.

There were times when I wanted to give up — when I felt beaten down and hopeless. There were times when I thought, "Why the heck am I doing this?" There were times when I just wanted to go home, take a shower, eat something other than PB & Js and sleep in my nice, soft bed (we camped the whole summer with very few showers). But those trials and difficulties taught me more than I ever thought I would learn. I got to know so many unique and talented people that had a positive influence on me. I gained the confidence to be able to walk up to a random stranger that may or may not speak English and share my faith with them. I learned the importance of putting other people before myself. More importantly, I learned to always carry change with me so I could pay to use the restrooms and to have patience when trying to figure out how the toilets worked. (Europe has a lot of diverse and strange contraptions that they say are toilets.) I could probably fill pages and pages with the things I learned.

On top of that, I watched as God transformed lives. I met many broken and lost people who had lived through so much pain and wrong. And I watched as they received hope and joy through Jesus Christ. Their lives were completely changed — and by the grace of God, that is one of the most rewarding things I’ve experienced. God changed me as well. I started this trip with my stomach filled with butterflies that seemed to reproduce each second. I came home from this trip filled with joy, confidence and a genuine love for other people.

Each country we traveled to added to these changes. Whole new cultures, people, languages and food awaited us in every one. All together we visited nine different countries: England, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Switzerland and France. Seeing and experiencing each of these beautiful, exquisite countries gave me such awe and appreciation for God and the world He created. It taught me that there’s so much more out there than my cozy little house and the comfort of Portland. To not be so narrow-minded as to think that only the United States is where it’s at. To not be afraid of life. Life is short. And I have a purpose — we all do. There’s no point in staying in my comfortable little box. I intend to use my time.

This summer was unforgettable. I was given strength and maturity and a thirst for joy, amongst other things. I became a different person, and I don’t know if that ever would have happened had I not gone on this trip.

Jayne Ruppert is a senior at Westside Christian High School. She writes a monthly column in the Lake Oswego Review. To contact her, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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