Written by Kay Stellpflug & photography by Travis Pohl of E&M Photography
According to Mark Twain, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.” Many people today are finding that out first hand through international exchanges, mission trips, and educational travel.
Morgan Moreau is one of them, and she represents a growing number of young people who have the opportunity to spread their wings and venture into the bigger world around them.
Morgan is a 2017 graduate of Beaver Dam High School who traveled on the Beaver Dam High School German exchange for a month, visiting and learning about Germany, Austria, and France. She had previously longed to travel to Africa; this trip to Europe only made that desire more acute.
Liberian doctors visited her school in the fall of 2015, and their presentation left an impression and opened an opportunity for her.
Friendship International and Pastor Mark Moldrem introduced a program that could make her dream come true. She began working toward that goal in every way she could, selling hundreds of candy bars and working long hours, all on top of attending school. Fueled by her motivation to join a group headed to Liberia, Morgan was tenacious.
There was a little bit of persuasion necessary to convince her father to let her go on this trip, but persistence won out. With her savings and donations from family and friends, she was finally attaining her dream.
Last March she was able to go to Liberia, Africa through Friendship International, and the experience opened her eyes and changed her life.
Her observations were in sync with Mark Twain. “My trip to Liberia was not my first abroad adventure, and it definitely will not be my last. The trip inspired me and taught me that travel is such an amazing way of learning, and nothing can ever take away your experience,” said Morgan.
Her experiences were many and varied. Sometimes she felt that there were so many similarities, while other times she was acutely aware of differences. The rest of the family gained insights through Morgan’s experiences as well.
Julie Moreau, Morgan’s mom, said, “She witnessed firsthand the struggles of life and survival of the Liberian people. She saw how the environment, economy, education, and government affected and impacted the lives of Liberians. She learned about the progress that was starting to evolve in the schools.”
There were three people on this particular trip. Pastor Mark Moldrem, Sue Bentz, and Morgan Moreau. Both Pastor Moldrem and Sue Bentz had been there before and had formed friendships with Liberians.
GETTING OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE
Bentz had done very little traveling and got her first passport just ten years ago. But she has been to Liberia three times now and is adamant about people experiencing other cultures and getting outside their comfort zones.
“It doesn’t even have to be international travel. It could mean a farm kid helping out in an inner-city soup kitchen,” said Sue. The converse would be a young person growing up in a metropolis spending time in the country. “I think it is crucial in our present time that young people have a better global sense of life. Walt Disney was way ahead of his time when he said, ‘It’s a small, small world.’ Young people who can accept cultural differences and respect those differences will become better adults.” She continued, “Many jobs now require extensive travel, which entails acclimating to many different circumstances. Other cultures can teach us so many things including respect, reverence, and humility!”
Morgan was forced to learn to adapt to circumstances early in her trip when her luggage was lost; this meant the first thing she got to experience was the outdoor market, picking up a few necessities until it arrived. She wasn’t fussed by it and learned to go with the flow from the start.
“Morgan was such a good sport. She took her bucket baths, shrieked at the huge spiders, tried all the Liberian foods, and made friends quickly. One of the things that really impressed me about Morgan was that she always managed to ask some very good questions,” Bentz added.
A smile says a lot in any language, and Morgan was known for hers. Visiting clinics and hospitals confirmed her decision to make her future in health care. “My mission trip to Africa heightened my dream to become a physician and really made me want to go back to Liberia, and other countries too. I learned we take so much for granted such as water, food, clothing, health, transportation, a clean environment, our rights, and an effective government. My goal is to educate people on the serious issues facing our world’s future and push for change.”
There are many ways people benefit from travel. They include helping you to decide what you want to do, managing money and developing independence, becoming more responsible and respectful, testing yourself in unfamiliar situations, learning about the world around you, growing culturally and geographically, and the list goes on.
Whether it is a spring break, a summer trip, a year abroad, a mission, or school trip, they all expose people to ‘others’ and remind you that people are always more similar than different.
Morgan’s mom, Julie put it best: “Morgan’s journey is not over. In fact, it is just beginning. She is passionate about people and children, and she wants the best for them. I am thankful for the journey she has been on and for what the future holds. Friendship International and the people of Liberia have been her inspiration to do good in this world and to love one another. We are so proud of Morgan. I know she has touched the lives of many and will continue.”
Morgan is not alone in her desire to touch lives and help others. She and her generation are the hope of the future. Mark Twain was right again. To all the Morgans out there reaching out and going beyond their comfort zone, we owe you gratitude and support. You are making a difference; carry on.