Mike and Annamarie tied the knot on July 16 and then set off on an their honeymoon. But they didn’t fly to Hawaii, sail off to Jamaica or drive up to some mountain cabin hideaway. Instead, they went to Thailand … to work.
They spent a week with several other service-minded volunteers on a Fuller Center for Housing Global Builders mission to build a simple, decent home for a family in the small community of Lampang in northern Thailand.
“My first thought was, oh boy, I don’t know about that,” said Annamarie, noting that while she has always been service-minded, she had never traveled internationally. Mike, however, talked her into it.
“I’ve gone on three Global Builders trips — the first was Armenia in 2012 — and I’ve loved every single one of them,” he said. “I’ve always had such a good experience, a different experience, and Annamarie had never had the opportunity to do one.”
As the couple planned their wedding, they continued to consider their options for a Global Builders honeymoon. They talked with Fuller Center Director of International Field Operations Ryan Iafigliola, who attended the same high school as Mike and whose older brother Brett was Mike’s friend. Iafigliola told them there was a group headed for Thailand, one of The Fuller Center’s newest Global Builders destinations, just two days after their wedding. The more they learned about the trip, the more determined they became to have just such an alternative honeymoon.
“I really wanted to go to Italy, but I think that we made the best decision of our life,” Annamarie said. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. As I started to learn about what The Fuller Center does on these mission trips, it became more clear to me that this was definitely what Mike and I had to do because we both love to do volunteer work, we both love to do things in the community and give back. I couldn’t see another way of doing it than doing this and molding our lives together as husband and wife commitment to community service and helping others. It was good to put somebody else first. I had a blast.”
Annamarie is thankful that her first international travel experience came through The Fuller Center’s Global Builders program, which not only provides families with eager volunteers to help them build their homes but also offers those volunteers an opportunity to experience the world and authentic cultures off the beaten tourist path.
“I learned what it was like to travel overseas, how they build, the types of food and language and traditions and culture,” she said. “That gives you perspective. You can’t get that perspective by just walking out your front door and walking about the block.”
Is it an experience every newlywed couple should try?
“If you’re looking for just sitting at a beach and you don’t want to do anything, that might not be the best decision,” Mike said. “But anybody that is willing to work and wants to experience a whole other culture and give back … it’s really a great experience that you hope to get again and again.”
While it might not be the perfect honeymoon for every couple, Annamarie insists it was perfect for her and her new husband.
“It was the best thing Mike and I could have done because we grew closer together as a couple because we did something together that’s going to make a difference in someone’s life,” she said. “The trip leaders made it more than a mission trip — it was a life experience that I want to do over and over again. … I know that my hard work and sweat went into that house, and a part of me will always be with Thailand and that family.”
As they were leaving Thailand, they were making plans for future Global Builders experiences before they even boarded the flight home. They even asked Thailand site leader Boots Walker when they could bring their future children.
“It would be nice if we could get in one or two more trips before we actually start a family, but it also would be nice to actually bring them to a whole new culture of really appreciative people and just that whole experience that I’ve had multiple times and Annamarie has now had and want to experience again.”
The Fuller Center for Housing is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide. They have sent over 3,200 volunteers on international service trips all over the world through their Global Builders program.
On MissionFinder, we have over 1,000 ministries offering opportunities like this to serve at home and around the world. To learn more about their trips to Thailand or ten other countries with Fuller Center Global Builders or to help support their ministry, visit their profile on MissionFinder.org here.