Expectations versus Reality



I liked to tell everyone that I had no expectations for the trip. I was going to be spending 3 weeks in the Dominican Republic and all I wanted was to
feel a part of the team, experience God and have fun. I wanted to believe that I was going into the next few weeks totally dependent on God. 


The truth was, I did have expectations- and a lot of them. As soon as I arrived in Georgia for training camp, I was already filled with anxiety over an assortment of things. 

Will my team like me?

Will I make any friends?

Will I embarrass myself a lot?

Will I feel God’s presence?

There were so many thoughts running through my head, it was hard to truly enjoy everything during my first couple of days. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun at times, but I felt I was missing something. During worship I sometimes felt disconnected and during team time I felt alone. 

Why isn’t anyone talking to me?

I expected to arrive and instantly become the center of attention. I figured that because I talked to some of the girls online already, we would instantly click when we met in real life. 

Not true. 

I felt distant from the other girls at times and it made me upset. I began to dread training camp more and more. (Porta pottys, bucket showers, games; not really for me..) I sat at the end of the table for almost every meal and didn’t usually talk. I expected to be payed attention to and thought someone might talk to me, but I was afraid to talk to most of the girls myself. 

Honestly I hoped I would have the time of my life during the next few weeks. I expected God was going to make the trip amazing and flawless for me because I was unable to go the year before. I was so certain something life changing was going to happen during the trip. 

Although I tended to feel alone, I still managed to enjoy my first couple of days- but I still had expectations. I was always thinking of what others thought about me. I worried why no one wanted to put their mattress by me at night. I wanted one thing, or I didn’t want another thing. Also,I didn’t want to be pushed out of comfort zone. 

Obviously, God had other plans than what I had mapped out in my finite mind. I think it’s fair to say they were completely different than anything I would have ever expected.                            

Completely different! 

July 3rd, The second morning of training camp, I found myself feeling ill and unable to enjoy my devotional time. I told my leader, who had been dealing with another teammate who wasn’t feeling well either. The sickness only progressed throughout the day and I ended up in the ER with my group leader. The experience was tough physically and emotionally, as I had tests done and medicine prescribed- only to be told I had the stomach bug. 

I was a little confused, but was happy it was nothing serious. 

I expected that would be the end of it; and I would be better in a few days.But I was wrong. July 4th came around, and I was already longing to go home. (I hadn’t even arrived in the Dominican yet!) The sickness was almost unbearable and I could barely eat anything. I was weak, shaky and struggling to keep a positive attitude.  

The medicine the doctors had previously given me wasn’t working, and I remember talking with my group leader about going home because we both were unsure if I could make it through the airport. I continued to push through, miserable and upset at the situation. 

Why did I have to fall sick right before I left for another country? 

After long, tedious hours of checking in baggage, sitting in a wheelchair through the Miami airport and waiting in customs lines; I finally made it to the Dominican Republic with my big team. We spent over an hour riding in a rocky shuttle up the  mountainside, before we arrived at the host home in Lajas de Yaroa, DR.           

I wasn’t even exited to be in the Dominican. I wanted to go home.    

I was often stuck either in bed or on the house porch, unable to participate in almost anything. I had a lot of trouble eating, and my leaders and hosts wereconstantly checking on me.                                                            I felt miserable and worthless as I could hear my teammates one morning outside my dorm working on construction, as I lay sick in bed. I felt like a burden to my team. I remember telling my leader so many times that I just wanted to help out somehow. 

I was angry at God because no matter how many times my teammates prayed for and over me, I was not truly getting any better. Day after day, the hours dragged past and felt like years. I thought I would never get better or go home. Sometimes I would begin to feel better, but then later I would feel worse than I did before. I was confused. It upset me how many people knew I was sick and how they would constantly ask me if I was okay. 

What is the point of me being on this trip if I can’t participate?

After over a week we realized I was just as sick as ever so I went to the doctor. 


The experience was really rough for me. My fear of needles was really put to the test during the trip.. and my fear won. The doctor basically told us I had “flulike symptoms” and I was given medicines. Again

Traveling up hills or even stairs, or walking more than a few feet was a struggle of a lifetime for me the majority of the trip. I found myself weaker and weaker. Eventually I was losing weight and couldn’t even walk up the stairs to the bathroom without collapsing. My roommates had to hold my hand as I walked to each meal or to team time so that I wouldn’t fall over. I cried at night because I was so far from home. I was constantly relying on other people to help me with everything. I automatically assumed my teammates were upset with me for not participating in all the work that theyhad to do. 

In reality, I took my new friendships for granted during this point in my life. 

I’m not even serving God, I’m not doing anything worthwhile…

I would say to myself. 

I am just in the way of my team, and none of my expectations are a reality anyways,

I would think all day. I truly felt there was no point in me being on the trip- and I was angry at God. To be honest, I was angry at everyone. It was easy for people to get irritated at the little things, or even at each other. I struggled with that- and it would make me even more upset when something like that happened. 

Eventually, I let go of most of my expectations and mainly focused on how I felt like a failure…I felt ashamed going to off-days or participating in team time, knowing I didn’t go on the prayer walk with everyone the day before.  I felt rude not eating all my food at meals. I felt annoying when someone would ask me how I felt and I would have to be honest.  

One night, about 2 weeks into the trip during team time, my group filled out anonymous encouragement cards for each other. I received one that simply quoted Matthew 6:33..

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well…”

The verse really stuck with me and I began to truly ponder what it meant. I prayed and journaled about it a lot wondering why it stuck with me so much. 

Until it hit me. 

I realized I was seeking and focusing on my own desires and expectations do the trip instead of seeking God. I was focusing on my own worries and anxieties instead of looking to God in the midst of my disparity. 

I began to realize that God had his own plan for my trip whether I had my own way I hoped things would go or not. It didn’t matter what I wanted to happen, because God already had it planned out. 

And he had something to teach me. 

I discovered that while I was frustrated about being sick most of the trip, I was letting the entire trip pass me by. I was missing out on the beauty, and I was missing out on God. 

I began talking with God more and more. My leader encouraged me to speak more positivity over myself, and that is what I began to do. Worship slowly became my favorite part of the morning and evening, and I enjoyed reading my Bible and journaling more than I had before.               

Even though I still felt unwell most of the trip, I had a renowned energy from God to serve and felt joy as I participated more and more with my team. I discovered that I could do ALL THINGS through Christ who strengthens me. realized that while sometimes I did feel  disappointed if I didn’t always do the same physical work as everyone else, I still was able to help out.

I found that at VBS I was able to speak enough Spanish to hold conversations with a lot of the children, (speaking more Spanish and understanding more than I thought I would be able to) and help them with anything they needed. 

God had so much to show me through everything that happened, I simply wasn’t listening to him. I know things are not always easy, but sometimes God is molding us to look more like Him or He is making us a brighter light for Him. 

I try to speak Matthew 6:33 over myself whenever it comes to mind, and I remind myself that God has a plan for me in my trials. I also try to remember that friendships are important, and shouldn’t be taken for granted. I was surrounded by tons of believers who were always willing to pray with me or talk to me, and I easily pushed that aside in my selfishness. 

I want to encourage everyone to seek God and his plan for you before you seek your own plans. He knows what is best and already has everything planned out-and in whatever you are going through, There is a reason it is happening. Even in the darkest situations God is with us, and we are never alone despite our circumstances. Remember that God is a faithful and loving God- and THROUGH IT ALL, it is well.

I learned so much on my trip, even though the past few weeks were as far from what I expected them to be as possible. But in seeking God I found what He was trying to show me- and no matter how things go, whether I see it coming or not, I have the opportunity to grow stronger in my faith and become a better person through Him. 

I learned so much and discovered so many things. I am SO GRATEFUL for the team I was a part of (each and every person on my team impacted my life in some way) and I was beyond blessed with the leaders I had. They not only lead our group amazingly, but they also encouraged me greatly in my life and walk with Christ. I was blessed to be a part of the group, the host home and Adventures In Missions. 

I cannot wait to see where I go to serve the Lord next year!


Rachel Holdeman

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