Two of us must make an early departure to return home. We’re glad that we have stayed as long as possible to be with our farm families for their gathering with our group. They arrive with their beautiful children for a few hours of fellowship and dinner. We throw the frisbees and beach balls and the dog outruns all of us. We blow bubbles and catch them to see how long we can keep them in the air. We play “Pop the Balloon” and laugh and act ridiculous. (Going to suggest this at our next Sunday School party:) We hold the babies so the mothers can enjoy their pizza dinner.
We celebrate with these twelve families who have made a commitment to come to work on the farm for a chance of a better lifestyle for their familiies. The men are learning English. One by by, they stand to introcude themselves. The are so proud to say, “My Name is___________. Then they continue to tell us through the translator how many years they have been at the farm and the opportunity to be part of the program with Robbie and Murray. Some work the fields. Some are gardeners, cooks, and guards.Their lives have changed. They give God the glory. To leave a job making one dollar a day to $14 a day is a big pay raise. They are grateful. We are touched and celebrate with them. Unfortunately there is not time to clean up before departing.
The bumpy ride to the hotel is almost comical as we bounce our way to the interstate. It’s Friday night and people are walking along the dirt roads. Young men and women, arm in arm. Young boys on bicycles. As we move closer to town, the city is alive with street vendors. I try to take it all in before our dusty car (and feet) pull into a luxurious hotel. Its always a bit of a shock to transition back to my way of life. Good water pressure, 400-count sheets, down comforters welcome me back. And I want to cry.
I think it’s part of a mission trip. We go to help. We go to try to make a change for good. We go for many reasons, all of them worthy, but coming up short in so many ways. Maybe it’s the early departure, but once you go on a mission trip, any departure seems way too soon. I haven’t done enough. I needed more time to make a difference. I wish I had learned more Spanish. One more big hug from a smiling child. One more morning devotional with my sisters.
But depart we must. I remember the words of the missionary I sat by on the way to Nicaragua. It’s not what you do on a mission trip. It’s what you do when you go home. And I must ask myself if I will take an early departure from my compassion? Will I depart from morning devotionals? Will I depart from praise and worship just because i don’t have a mountain of pineapples to view as the sun comes up? Will I be too busy for meaningful conversations and time for quieit prayer?
I suppose this is one time a delayed departure might be welcome.