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Mission Trips?
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My husband and I work with an international Christian organization as intercessory missionaries. Most of our duties will always be here at the international headquarters. However, trips are a part of what we do. Since being diagnosed... I don't really know how to pull this off.

When on a mission/ministry trip, you usually eat whatever the group eats, and it is sometimes provided by the people you are there to serve. Missions 101 dictates that you eat whatever is set before you. How do I navigate this scenario with my serious dietary limitations? I obviously can't just eat anything. And naturally gluten free foods are not a guarantee. Traveling internationally adds complicating factors in trying to bring my own food.

How do I politely refuse the food? And... how do I eat when I am there? Do I just need to avoid these mission/ministry trips? The last thing you want to be when going to serve is high maintenance.

Does anyone have experience with this kind of thing? Any advice?

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Hi Christine,

I am an Australian living cross culturally in india, and am newly diagnosed, so definitely don't have all the answers! But I do want to encourage you as you think through this.

A lot of this will depend on which countries in particular you are visiting, but the main advantage of less developed countries is that the food is generally a lot less processed. Fruits and vegetables in their purest forms! I eat lots of bananas! In India, it really depends on which part you are visiting on whether or not meals are rice or bread based.

It sounds as though, in your particular role you will be visiting people who are more permanently based on the field? They can do some preparation for your arrival if catering is to be done outside/in conference centre or whatever. It should not be hard to organise (and remember, we are here to serve each other, not just you doing all the serving.) There may be issues with cross contamination which will probably not be well understood, so another issue will be how sensitive you are to minute amounts

Celiac is unheard of here. One of the problems I'm still trying to navigate is having meals with local families. We live amongst the people we work with and our neighbours show love and hospitality by feeding us lots and lots of food! Socially it's difficult. I have to deal with statements like 'oh, if you have a little bit, it won't matter.' Also, I have DH, so people tell me things like 'once your rash goes away, you will be able to eat whatever you like again." There are also lots of theories and old wives tales or that I eat too many eggs! But I just need to be very firm with what I will and won't eat.

Also, most places don't have border restrictions on packaged food, so high energy foods like fruit and nut snacks, granola bars etc can be brought in.

And then there is prayer. If He has called you to this, He will make it possible.

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Thanks for the encouragement.

I am pretty sensitive, so cross contamination is a major concern for me. But with a little effort, I'm sure it's doable.

That is always the bottom line, isn't it? If He asks something of us, He always makes it possible.

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Hi Christine,

Celiac is a legitimate disease, just like diabetes or heart disease or any other condition. It requires certain steps to be taken to ensure your health. Other people generally accept those requirements when it comes to other diseases, but for some reason people sometimes think food is not a valid concern for celiacs. But the same people wouldn't make a diabetic eat a sugary meal or feed an alcoholic licqour. It's just a mental thing that people aren't familiar with yet, so they often don't understand the gluten issue for celiacs. That doesn't change the fact that celiacs need a modified diet to be healthy though. Add people need to either accomadate us or get out of the way so we can eat the foods we need to be healthy. The nice thing is, many people are happy to help once they do understand. None of us choose to have celiac, but we have it for good or bad.

I suggest that before you take a trip, you let the church group know your celiac food issues and also make sure the destination country understands you have celiac and will need to eat a gluten-free diet. People can't help if they don't know. There is every likelyhood you will need to buy and prepare your own gluten-free foods though, as expecting other people to understand cross-contamination is not realistic. So a kitchen you can cook in is an important consideration. I sometimes take my own food to restaraunts to eat with others. Fruits and snacks are something you can prepare ahead of time and take with you.

We aren't that big a burden on other people, they just don't understand us.

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