After graduating high school, I moved back to Jacksonville and attended church at Evangel Temple. While there, I was fortunate enough to be a part of several missionary trips and visit several countries. On my first trip, I was able to travel to several countries in the Caribbean: Antigua, Barbuda (technically Barbuda is part of Antigua, but the residents don't acknowledge it), St. Kitts and Nevis. It was a wonderful experience and made you feel blessed for what you have.

Goats running through streets of Antigua

The main source of income for Antigua, which is where I spent most of my trip, is tourism. Along the coastline, there is several large resorts. Most Antiguans are employed at these resorts, but they receive little pay. I was shocked to see animals running in the streets and wooden pallets for sidewalks. The houses on the island are raised, since it floods during hurricane season. To raise the houses they used anything they could find, like concrete blocks and wood, but when they could not find either, they used whatever they could find, like old car batteries.

I was also able to travel to Ecuador and stay with a Shuar Indian tribe. On this trip we helped a local missionary group build water purification systems for the villagers, and it was an experience I will never forget. In the village, life expectancy was less than 30 years because of water contamination. We were able to work beside the Shuar villagers and help provide clean water for all 52 homes in the village. It was a life-changing experience. Water is something that we take for granted as Americans. But in many countries, water is scarce and often contaminated. We should be thankful for the blessings we have as Americans.