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MISC Mission Trip Devotions, Mission Trip Mistakes & Tips, Trip Devotions About Flexibility

Toilets, T.P. and Flushing, Oh My!

by Jill Lienemann, Kesher International Missions | ©2012

My friends poke fun at me when they see my pictures of toilets from various mission trips. I DO NOT have a twisted fascination of bathroom fixtures. I DO HAVE a burden to help others cope with a cross-cultural shock that I, myself, experienced because no one spoke about this topic prior to trip departure. Let’s break the wall of silence endorsed by western social modesty and publically herald the free speech of toilet etiquette!

My first encounter with a “horse of a different color” came during my mission trip to Russia. There before me was a bowl without a seat – totally perplexing, somewhat unnerving but still manageable. Previously unacquainted with summer camps or woodland activities, my only exposure to “roughing it” was the portable toilets brought in for the annual city celebration. So on the very same trip, my next shock came as I faced a wood platform with cut out holes placed above a deep abyss. Pressing through my inadequacy, I soon learned how to balance and aim quite well while choosing to use my soft 2-ply toilet paper brought from home instead of the provided small circular coffee filter.

Additional mission trips educated me on more water closet diversities. In Latin America, it is mandatory to discard used toilet paper in a basket beside the toilet in lieu of the bowl. Manual flushing is a simple technique of emptying a pail of water into the bowl, not the tank, and letting gravity do the rest.  Privacy can be as little as a shower curtain between you and the next person in line.  Two toilets in the bathroom, the second one being a bidet, can be intimidating even for the most courageous.

You may encounter the same or other VERY different circumstances on your mission trip. Ask your trip leader what you should expect or do your own research so you can prepare both mentally and physically before departure. One thing that is certain, God does not want you to become sidetracked from fulfilling your purpose on the trip because you are obsessed about your personal hygiene. Jesus was quick to point out a similar misguided focus to his contemporaries, “…you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.” (Matthew 23:25a-26 NLT) Jesus explained it this way to his disciples using a different example, “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body. What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come…” (Mark 7:18b-19; 21a) Yes, it is important to practice sanitary measures so that you do not become ill and be totally removed from participating in your outreach program. However, when you choose to concentrate too much on external conditions, you allow yourself to become vulnerable and your ministry efforts are weakened.

KESHER TIP (connection): An Ounce of Prevention…
Benjamin Franklin didn’t have a mission trip in mind when he completed this thought with the words, “is worth a pound of cure.” But I’m sure he would agree that hand sanitizers are less intrusive than a round of strong antibiotics for unwanted intestinal germs. Purchase bundles of baby wipes (without the plastic containers) along with small zip-lock bags, which is more cost effective than individual packets. Once at your location, you can load/reload your baggies for each day’s use. When using your gel disinfectants after ministering to the nationals, remember to apply it out of their sight so there won’t be a misinterpretation of your actions. Although alcohol-based sanitizers are the best, you may want to check with your destination country to see if they may be confiscated in customs. 

About Kesher International Missions

Kesher International Missions desires to see individuals realize their potential by being stretched out of their comfort zones and using their skills and talents in an extraordinary way for God! Jill's passion for global outreach started in 1993 after she participated on her first mission trip to Russia where she experienced first-hand the life-changing impact on the people who heard the Gospel, the mission team members and her own life. In just a few years and many trips later, Jill is using her mission skills and knowledge to mentor and train leaders in mobilizing their own teams to share Christ’s love with the nations.


2 thoughts on “Toilets, T.P. and Flushing, Oh My!

  1. Such a needed topic!! People need to realize that most of the world doesn’t live like Americans. I girl on a trip I was on in Romania refused to use the outhouse at the church we visited, so when we were invited to have lunch at the mayor’s house, she expected to use his indoor plumbing. Oh well. His outhouse smelled just like the one at the church. She held it for about six hours until we returned to our base. Or how about the bus station in a large city in southern India. There was a trough in the ladies’ room where everyone found a place to squat. Naturally the locals watched the Americans. It’s a good idea to learn to laugh at ourselves so we can take these situations in stride.

    Posted by Ethel | January 23, 2012, 11:36 PM
  2. Great article! 🙂

    Posted by Emily in Guate | January 24, 2012, 2:23 AM

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