I returned from Mexico after the first year, dealt with re-entry, and couldn’t wait to go back there or anywhere else God made the way for me to go. Somehow, the giving my heart was worth it, and I loved it.
I’m quite sure that each successive trip meant more pull-your-heart-out-pain in loving and leaving, and my trip to Philippines definitely fit that bill. It was a very different trip from my previous trips to Mexico in both form and function (beyond the obvious location difference).
The team that went was smaller (10 people total instead of 20+), and our purpose in being there was not to do construction or put on a VBS program. Instead, we spent a lot of time just being with our hosts. We visited churches, helped with music, did church Filipino-style, and learned a little of what it means to just be. (Being sick meant I had even more opportunity to learn about being instead of doing.) In short, we fell in love with a part of the family of God most of us had never known before. It had happened in Mexico, too, which is part of the joy of missions trips.
That said, coming home from the Philippines sits squarely on the list of the most painful experiences of my life. With my trips to Mexicali, I would console myself with, “I’ll be back next June!” “I’ll see those people again!” After all, I had been back every year, and had no reason to expect otherwise. In this case, I had no reason to expect to go back. I had formed relationships with dear people that I could not realistically expect to see before heaven, and the time we had together had not been enough.
“Giving my heart” in missions had wrecked me. I look back to my blog posts from the winter of 2005 and remember daily phone calls with Tricia, trying to learn a little more about living life where God had called me to be when I didn’t really want to be here at all. When I returned and my dad asked if I was glad to be home, the only honest (if brutally so) answer was, “no.” Still, I knew then that despite the pain of leaving, I was supposed to finish college and try to figure out how to apply what I had learned there here.