So I couldn’t journal—couldn’t write, couldn’t take notes. Nothing. For three years I’ve been interviewing friends and relatives about mission trips to Guatemala and Honduras. My first two manuscripts have characters who visit those countries. Then, kind of out of the blue, our youth group was actually going. My son said it was “okay” if I chaperoned, and of course, I jumped at the chance.
But, once I got there, my writer brain shut off. Meanwhile, the teens and everyone else journaled every day … just like the youth minister asked. All I could do was read the provided devotion and the book of Romans, for whatever reason. I sat around with a goofy grin, played with some adorable children, and watched our group of young people interact with the community.
Maybe that’s what I was there for, since I write or edit or critique all day every day? God wanted me to just be there, eyes open, heart open.
I saw mountains, tropical flowers, big beautiful brown eyes, tanned smiling faces. I found hugs, good food, prayers, and love that surpassed language barriers. My heart ripped in two for an elderly woman with a broken hip sitting in a plastic chair being cared for at home by her two sons, for an orphanage full of adorable children so excited to see Americans they crowded at the fence cheering as we drove up, for special needs children cuddled in the arms of our teens, for a mother on her knees praying thanks to God over and over for the food our kids delivered to her family. I felt pride as our chaperones and sons and daughters worked alongside the Guatemalan men to construct a cook shed. I admired the great faith and spirit of the Guatemalan women.
Inside, my mind collected emotions and praises for blessings, both physical and spiritual. Really, I’d already heard about all these kind of experiences from the people I interviewed about their mission trips. I’d already written about it from their descriptions. So, way down south of Mississippi, I lived in the moment—me, God, and Guatemala.
Have you had an experience like this? A mission trip or service trip? A place that captured your heart?
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson