I wrote this three years ago in response to a mission trip.... this is the rough draft i have since created an 80 page memoir and 200 page scrapbook of the event....
mission trip reflection -written at 1am this morning.....
“Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of the countenance,
the heart is made better”
World Traveler, Teacher, Dancer, Singer, Worshiper, Chef, Janitor, Prayer Warrior, Daughter, Cousin, Sister, Friend, Missionary, Skeptic, Photographer, Public Speaker, Exhorter, Listener, Peace Keeper, Celebrity- I have been all these things in the past two weeks. I have left my heart in the Philippines...
The plane ride was long and lonely, surrounded by hundreds of people, yet very alone with your thoughts and tray table. desperately needed sleep did not come easy for everyone, the engine roared on for hours before touching down. We anxiously awaited what lie ahead.
Early, very early, every morning I awoke to the sound of an old rooster crowing. most days I was the first one awake. I’d sit in the living room and write as the sun arose over the buildings, listening to the delicious sounds of the city. The Tricycle engines rumbled, Jeepney horns squeaked as the colorful contraptions rushed by. People stood in doorways scratching their heads. Children ran in the streets. Soon pastor would quietly creep out of his bedroom with his bible in hand, grab a cup of coffee and join me in my people watching. not too long after i would here the clacking of Diane’s laptop computer keys from the kitchen table. Six am- the rest of the team began to stir, anxious to begin the busy day ahead. Seven am- breakfast was served in the classroom. Eight am- we began work inside the gates.
Working was like being in a zoo, we were locked in the gates and people on the outside stared at us as we worked. The paint was oil based and stained my fingers as I worked. stagnant water covered the ground. Big, ugly bugs crawled around. the sun warmed my cheeks and the humidity caused sweat to form large beads down my back. Tools were scarce, so we had to be industrious, using tree branches, and scraps to make ladders and extension pools. the young men gracefully scaled the roof to reach high places. Grateful teenagers glanced up as shirts came off of powerfully built bodies in the midday heat. Barefooted children gleefully created mud cities in the dirt with water used to clean paint brushes. Lead paint, automotive putty, and turpentine soaked our skin and seeped into our lungs, the morning noise ensued.
Lunch, something new everyday- Tilapia, squid, shrimp and some sort of rice concoction were offered. The brave attempted to eat what was served. After lunch was siesta time, sleep was welcome for many team members, fellowship was desired for others. We slept together under the fans to keep cool, we talked together, cried together, laughed together, thought together and journaled together. ties were connected and walls were torn down. Sometimes we shopped at the nearby mall.
Most evenings we had church services - absolutely incredible worship services disguised as “prayer meetings”. People of all ages lifted their voices and hands to the Lord. Church benches were cast aside to make room for dancing. I was forced out of my comfort zone, and spoke at many services. I offered up my testimony and used my voice to bless others. Pastor preached amazing messages that my heat was open to hearing and understanding. Delighted church members joyfully showed off the cement walls and swept dirt floor of their churches. Families spent a months salary to feed us. Traveling to the churches was incredible, Paradise and squalor met in beautiful harmony- the giant mansions arose from the squatter shacks. a family shared a queen sized bed under an overpass. Babies were toted around by siblings not much bigger then they. Children sold flowers in the street for food. A man lay dead on the sidewalk. Family members attended a wake under an awning, the open casket was lit with the flickering glow of white candles. The constant noise of engines and horns continued.
After assessment we lied down in out respective beds to sleep, donning headphones to drown out the off key karaoke coming from the night club down the street. The rooster still crowed. Each and every day was filled with incredible experiences, sights, and encounters with God. I will never forget the naked children playing in the rain, in metro manila, or the look on Rosalie's face when she put on her new glasses, or the joy on every Filipino's face during the water fight. I will never forget watching a pastor who sacrificed so much for the Lord, play with his children in the dirt, and tuck them in at night with ratted blankets on church benches. I will never forget the story of the night that same Pastor watched his child take his last breath, as he willingly offered him up to the Lord. I will never forget how small the new baby felt when I held him close. I will never forget the precious gifts I received both physical and spiritual. I will never forget the love I felt from the people and the Lord. I pray that I will never forget the emotions I faced and the fears I conquered. I will never forget how good it feels to throw myself into worship, draw up to the throne of God, not holding back but offering every part of me. I will not forget the too short night when we stayed up and sang love songs through the night. I will not forget hugging my brothers and sisters goodbye and sobbing with the team to the airport. I will not forget the look on pastor’s face- the look that said I know how you feel and I knew this would happen, we are in this together forever connected by the pieces of out hearts abandoned in the Philippines. I won’t forget the peace I felt in the arms of Jesus. I won’t forget being in a thirds world country, breathing in the diesel fumes, kneeling in the dirt, sleeping with cockroaches, eating god knows what and absolutely loving every emotional minute of it. I won’t forget watching a ten-year-old boy give into tears as he held a single white rose in the completed church. I won’t forget the “scars and stories” too numerous to mention here in this forum; the taste of Balut, the freedom to be myself I received at Mt. Olives. the ultimate understanding that “all things work together for good” in Christ Jesus. I will cling to the spirit I felt with my entire being. I will surround myself with people God has purposely put in my life to help me to grow and who refuse to allow me to falter in my steps. I vow to never, ever be the same person I was when I boarded the plane. I promise to return to the Philippines to rejoin the part of my heart I left behind. I will let myself, let myself go; cry when I need to, laugh when I want to, and share my heart with others even when it’s hard.
I am having a really hard time adjusting to a world that has not changed just because I have changed. I pray that I will not fall back into my old ways just because I am in my comfort zone. I pray I will have the courage to step out of my comfort zone daily to bless others and draw closer still to the throne of God.