This summer, I took my fourth trip to Jamaica with my church in Savannah. Each year I learn something unique and specific to that year's trip. This year the group I traveled with taught me something that I could never have imagined. The importance of transparency.

I also thought of myself as a pretty open book to the people that are close to me, so when our leader announced that increased transparency and prayer would be two of our focuses during the trip I initially thought that I would find this easy to do and I wouldn't find myself stretched too far out of my comfort zone.

We split up into pairs and my partner for the week was a sweet college-aged girl that lives in New Jersey who has come on trips with our group before. I felt comfortable with her but she and I had never had deep life talks like the ones I knew were going to be expected out of us.

Immediately I was encouraged because she opened right up about things she was struggling with and things going on back home with her family. There was no small talk, we cut right to the chase. After she finished sharing I was able to reciprocate and share some things that were going on at home as well.

Times of sharing and reflection like this continued throughout the week. We shared encouragements, frustrations, struggles, and things we were battling in our lives. One area that I realized I had a difficult time being transparent in was sharing struggles that might seem silly or small when shared. I knew I was comfortable talking about struggles like my mental health or health problems in my family so it almost confused me when I realized I had a difficult time articulating small struggles.

The time of very intentional transparency helped me realize this and helped me to begin to share. As I began to share I started discovering the very things that I thought would sound silly were the same things that other people were dealing with. When we all began to share it allowed for better communication and unity within our team.

I was able to have deeper conversations with people on the trip that I really don't think I would have had without this emphasis on transparency. It really was a mindset shift. I felt everyone thinking about it subconsciously and because of that conversations naturally shifted to conversations that were more gracious and meaningful.

By the end of the week, I knew our group had reached a new level of transparency with each other, and I am so thankful for it. People that I had just met at the beginning of the trip all of the sudden felt like family that I had known my entire life. People that I hadn't seen in six months felt like they had never left my side. Team, I love you and I am so thankful for you.