This weekend, 16-year-old Noel Dobbs will begin the summer adventure of a lifetime, all while helping others she has never met. She’ll also have quite a story to tell when she returns to Madison County High School as a junior in mid-August.
Dobbs is participating in Teen Missions International, a non-profit ministry that sends teens and pre-teens on six-to-eight-week mission trips to various places around the world.
Dobbs has chosen to go to Vanuatu, located on Pentecost Island near the island of Fiji in the South Pacific. She has worked hard to raise the $5,000 needed to participate in the summer-long trip that, in addition to spreading the Gospel, will include lots of physical labor such as building a dining hall and renovating a health center in the village where she will be staying. Her church, Jones Chapel United Methodist, helped with her sponsorship and she also held three yard sales and organized other fundraisers for the trip.
Dobbs said she became interested in going after hearing the experiences of a cousin, Sarah Morris, who went on a mission trip last year (and who will accompany Dobbs on this trip) and from mom, Patti Dobbs, and older sister, Chastin, who also went on mission trips through Teen Missions.
“I want to get closer to God through this experience and learn more about other cultures,” Dobbs said.
But before leaving on the long journey to Vanuatu, there is a two-week boot camp on Merritt Island in Florida, where she will “rough it” with others preparing for the mission field by sleeping on the ground in a tent and washing herself and her clothing in a bucket. But perhaps most distressing to teens will be the lack of technology – no laptops, cellphones, or other electronic devices are allowed from the time boot camp starts until the trip is over on July 31.
“I don’t know what that’s going to be like,” Dobbs said of the upcoming social media blackout.
After boot camp, Dobbs will be allowed to take only 32 pounds of necessities with her – including clothing, boots, etc. and board the first of five flights over 27 hours to Vanuatu. Once there, she will sleep in a rudimentary dorm, but continue to do her laundry in a bucket.
To communicate with her family and friends, she’ll have to write letters. Mrs. Dobbs said she will be able to get glimpses of her daughter, however, by viewing Teen Missions Facebook page, where they will update ongoing activities in their mission fields around the world.
On weekends, Dobbs hopes to be able to go hiking and sightseeing to remote villages in the tropical rainforests surrounding the area and interact with the children there. At Waterfall Village, missionaries will have an opportunity for some rest and relaxation in the cool waters of a river beneath the waterfall the village is named for.
“I think this experience and seeing the way the villagers live will give me a new appreciation of all that we have here,” she said.
To learn more about Teen Missions International, go to www.teenmissions.org