by Sarah Sullivan
Web Editor/Graphic Designer
This summer, seniors Henry Moss and Lauren Keiser embarked on a mission trip to teach English in China. As missionaries for Saratoga Federated Church, they, along with 12 other high school students, ran a ten-day English camp.
What did you do in China?
Henry: A family that goes to my church moved to China and have agreed to do 10 years of camps to help Chinese kids with English; this is their sixth out of ten. We go there and are counselors for an English fluency camp. In Chinese English classes, they learn how to read and write, but not how to speak or understand. We hang out with the kids 24 hours a day, for 10 days. It was in a rural area of China. It’s also about just loving the kids; they go to school from 9-9, 6 days a week.
When and why did you make the decision to go on the China trip?
Lauren: I decided to go my sophomore year, but wasn’t really ready to commit until this summer. I’m glad I waited because I realize now that I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it if I’d gone before.
Henry: My older brother went on the same trip 3 or 4 years ago and it sounded like a great trip! I love traveling and helping people so this was a great combination of the two.
What difficulties did you encounter?
Lauren: It was difficult to connect with the kids at first because they were quiet, especially in class, but we got a lot better towards the end.
Henry: It was very hard to reach some of the kids; we had an age range of 10 years old-20 years old so that we can get as many kids as possible to come. There were some kids there who had never taken an English class in their life. Talking to the kids who are ten years old and don’t understand English was hard, it was a lot of hand motions and getting translations from older kids.
What did you do to follow up after the trip?
Lauren: I still message some of them [the kids] on QQ, the international IM, and some of them have Instagrams.
Henry: We keep in contact with the kids through QQ, we friended some of the older kids.
What did you take away from the experience?
Lauren: I learned a lot of leadership skills and how important it is to be 100% present in everything I do.
Henry: Language is no barrier, we just [have to support] the kids. We would get annoyed because you couldn’t communicate with them, but we treated them nicely and on the last day everyone was crying. You can impact someone even if you don’t speak their language.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Lauren: My favorite part was getting to know the kids and one day we went to the nearby city and had them show us around all day. It was awesome to see how they lived and what they wanted to do.
Henry: We watched High School Musical with them.
What was your daily schedule?
Lauren: 7:30 wake up; 8:00 breakfast (the American leaders had a meeting); 9:00 morning recreation; 10:30 class (either language or culture); 12:00 lunch; 1:00 afternoon recreation; 2:30 class; 4:00 small group conversations for more advanced students, and other kids had more class; 5:15 free time (clean rooms); 6:00 dinner; 7-10:00 night time activity (movies, dance parties, card games); 11:00 “lights out”, but we stayed up until 1:00 or 2:00 talking.
Are you planning to go again?
Lauren: It’s more of a one-time trip [to take] as a high schooler because it’s expensive, but I’d love to go again as an adult.
What other mission trips have you done in the past similar to the China trip?
Lauren: I’ve gone to Mexico every year since I was 7.
Henry: I have been to Mexico twice and built houses for homeless.
Would you recommend other people to go on the trip?
Lauren: It’s an amazing trip, but it’s really difficult. I would recommend going because it’s definitely worth it but only for people who are dedicated and love to teach and serve.
Henry: Yes absolutely, especially if you have a close group of friends. It really made me see things differently.
Photos Courtesy Lauren Keiser