East Ridge junior travels to Borneo
East Ridge High School junior Sawyer Stewart spent her summer in triple digit temperatures under the stars.
No, the Woodbury resident wasn't enjoying time at a tropical beach resort; in fact, she was spending her time camping out in the mud in the middle of the rainforest.
Stewart spent five weeks this summer, June 20-Aug. 12, in Borneo on a mission trip where she helped build a Bible school, as part of a trip with the Teen Missions organization.
Stewart first participated in a Teen Missions trip last summer when she traveled to Nepal.
She said she learned of the organization through her mother, who had participated when she was a teenager.
"I wanted to grow in my faith," she said. "It really changed my life."
As soon as Stewart returned, she immediately told her mother that she wanted to go back.
"I was like, 'Mom I have to go back,'" she said. "I really felt called to go back.
"I really got addicted to mission trips - my heart got wrapped around mission trips."
Stewart said faith drew her to Borneo.
"The second trip is all about serving rather than going for the experience of it," she said.
Borneo is an island located just north of Indonesia and is divided among three countries - Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.
The mission team arrived in Kuching, Borneo, before bussing to their project site, which was up a hill, in the jungle on the equator.
The project site, Borneo Bible, Missionary & Work Training Center, was designed to train missionaries.
During the mission trip, Stewart helped with cement mixing, trench digging, the laying of foundation, building and helping to dig a 14 foot hole to house the school's septic tank.
"We had to bring all of the material up the hill," Stewart said. "The work was really hard, but I really loved the work."
While in Borneo, the mission group slept in tents at the project site and was able to bathe and wash clothes with the use of water buckets.
On Sundays the group would travel to a nearby village where the boys played soccer and the girls would work with children.
"We just loved on them and played with them," Stewart said.
One challenge the group encountered while in Borneo was that the Indonesian base of Teen Missions sent an additional 11 Bible school students to the site - after the food had already been rationed.
"Teen Missions only brings enough food for each person," she said. "We were worried that we were going to run out of food because we counted and we didn't have enough to feed 34 people."
Stewart said additional food was found every day in the storage house.
"God provided and we did have enough," she said, "it was like a fishes and loaves type of thing."
Stewart said the setting in Borneo was "dirty."
"We were in a giant mud pit," she said. "We came to the realization that everything we own would be covered in it."
Additionally, Stewart said they came into contact with a variety of unique insects and plants, such as centipedes, a praying mantis and Venus fly traps.
"We saw tons of weird bugs," she said. "All of the bugs we saw were, like, on steroids and huge."
In terms of the culture Stewart said she really liked the people in Borneo.
Borneo is a Muslim nation.
"The people there are really, really nice and really generous," Stewart said. "They don't want their beliefs to clash with our beliefs - they don't want to offend you - but they're strong in what they believe."
Stewart said Teen Missions has changed her life, so much so that she wants to be a missionary when she gets older.
Borneo brought Stewart a number of close friendships.
"I learned a lot about friendships," she said, "like a David and Jonathan friendship."
Stewart said Borneo also taught her a number of lessons about obedience.
"I really learned to be obedient to whatever God puts before me," she said. "If God puts carrying buckets up a hill and mixing cement in front of me then that's what I'm going to do and I'm going to do it with a joyful willing heart - it's not my job to question it."