I’ve always known that mission trips change lives. I’ve always known that it’s often the lives of the people going to bless the others that end up getting blessed as well.
That’s just how it is. But what I didn’t expect was how immensely it would change my perspective.
My mom wanted to be a missionary when she was younger, so naturally I’ve had my share of education on mission work. Between family mission trips, reading her old biographies and autobiographies, watching videos, and raising money for different organizations, I’ve learned a lot. My perspective has gotten a little broader as I’ve gotten older, seeing my friends go to and return from Haiti, Kenya, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Obviously when my family would go on vacation and my friends would be on the other side of a massive body of water I would feel slightly guilty, partly because I wasn’t with them and partly because I had some sort of idea of where they were. I had some sort of idea of the poverty and brokenness that the people they saw were going to be living in most likely for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, I’m sitting who knows where in Disneyworld with more food around me than I could eat in three months, while people are starving.
It’s enough to make any confused American teen feel guilty.
This summer, we went on another family mission trip. Some friends of ours go to Spruce Pine, NC every year to do a VBS through a small Hispanic mission church for the families in the area. This year they invited us and some other mutual friends to join them, and I could not be more grateful.
I love kids. I love their joy; I love their energy. I can handle pretty much any child you throw at me. However, I prefer the little ones. Toddlers, babies, you name it; anyone six years old and under is where my heart lies. In other words, Carolina, Eric, and Anita were perfectly placed where I needed them.
I first saw Carolina on our first day when I stayed behind at the church after our worship time so I could help Elizabeth with Baby Lottie if she needed it. The rest of the children had gone down to the river for games, but Carolina and a few other littles stayed with their mamas, who were making lunch. I rocked a couple of the itty-bitty babies for a while when they started to stir and fuss, and watched Carolina jump around on the stage. When she headed towards the mini beach balls, I slipped over to say hi.
“¡Hola! ¿Cómo te llamas?”
Carolina giggles a little and hides her face behind a beach ball.
“You don’t have to be shy! ¿Cómo te llamas? Yo
“Soy Carolina.” (pronounced Carol-eena)
“¿Cuántos años tienes, Carolina?”
“¿Quieres jugar conmigo y las Pelotas?”
In answer, she threw the ball at me. We found another little boy and played with play-dough for a while, cooking and “eating” galletas, helado, and plátanos.Carolina painted a grand total of THREE of my fingernails (and fingers!) on my left hand neon green. Her joy was contagious. Everything we did she would end up squealing. She was so ecstatic about the simplest things it made my heart burst.
I wanted to show her everything beautiful Jesus placed in the world for her to enjoy, just so I could see her react.
I met Anita on day 2. She was shyer at first than Carolina was. I asked one of my other little friends around me for her name and age, and was eventually able to coax more about her family and her favorite foods and such out of her. We began throwing rocks into the river, and found it was apparently hysterical that the bigger rocks made a bigger splash, usually resulting in a squeal from her and wet clothes on me. Over and over and over she threw those rocks. Every time she would cry “¡Más! ¡Más!” “More! More!” And I would pick her up and sling her on my back, spinning in circles asking the kids around us where she went. All the while her screams and giggles continued. “¡Más! ¡Más!” That’s what the Lord wants to hear from us. He wants to hear us cry out to Him for more of Him each time He shows us a glimpse of who He is.
But that’s not what I want to hear from her, it’s what I want Him to hear from her.
I met Eric on the last day. I’d seen him around earlier in the week, but he could usually be found dangling from Jordan, Zach, or Justin. On accident, I ended up sitting by him during the skit and gospel presentation times after the music. Before I knew it, he was on my lap and had his arms wrapped around me so tightly, I couldn’t breathe. The poor baby drank up every bit of love I had to give him and more. I rested my chin on his head and glanced down at his worn, light-up tennis shoes.
I’ll admit it. I sat in that row and held back the tears as Mr. Raymond and Pastor Charles told us about a hope for love and life greater than we can imagine. I so desperately wanted Eric to see Him. I so wanted Eric, Carolina, and Anita to know that I was so sorry we weren’t going to see them the next day, but that until we could come back, they could find love greater than any we, or anyone else in this broken world could give them. I so wanted them to see how He loves. I don’t think they understand yet.
But they will.
I believe He will be faithful to complete the work He has begun in them.
I don’t know when I will be able to go back to them. Hopefully Christmas, but if not, next summer. We’ll see what doors He opens. But until I see them again, my goal is to try my hardest every day to be as joyful as Carolina, as eager as Anita, and as full of love as Eric. And I will chase Him with all my heart, like I would want them to do, so I can truly know Him as best I can, and He can lead me where He wants me.
Although I REALLY hope He leads me back to them!💕