I opened my suitcase and was assaulted with it: the smell of damp, warm, bug-infested, dirt-coated clothing.
I sat there and wondered if there was a setting on my washer that said, “I think there’s something living in my dirty clothes”.
You know, right next to the buttons that say “Medium load, light wash” and “Heavy load, heavy wash”?
We’re finally back from our summer middle school mission trip to St. Petersburg, Florida. We took 28 kids and 10 leaders on the never-ending trek to meet up with the
youth at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church (where a former pastor and great friend of ours currently works). It was an incredible experience–I was so blessed to have a simply amazing team of adult leaders, and had the joy of seeing two young high school apprentice leaders blossom on this trip.
You can check it out yourself with the blog we had going during our trip here.
And our kids–I told them on the last night of this trip that they just blew me away. The number of housing changes we faced in the course of our one week trip (we unloaded and reloaded the trailer exactly 10 times), the extreme heat we faced (sweat was just dripping down my face the entire time we were outside), and the difficult conditions we faced when we camped for 3 nights at Fort DeSoto National Park made for a challenging trip for middle schoolers and adults alike. But these kids sailed through it with hardly any complaining, and were united as one by the end of our trip.
In all truthfulness, their constant good behavior, plucky attitudes, and diligent servant hearts gave me hope for the future. Just thinking of all their inside jokes and hilarious antics puts a smile on my face right now.
Another thing that put a smile on my face was reading over our “Care Cards”, a tradition we started last year on our mission trip in Colorado. We hung up bags at our campsite with students’ and leaders’ names on the outside, and everyone was responsible for writing at least one affirming note to each person on their team over the course of the week. Overall, that meant that our kids had to write 38 different notes in just a few days–but they rose to the challenge and wrote things so sweet and meaningful that nearly every kid I saw reading their cards on the last night had tears in their eyes.
I had some serious tear-jerkers myself, even unexpected ones from the goofy class clowns who were on our trip (maybe someday, someone will be able to explain to me why that type of student sticks to me like glue on these trips? It’s not like I’m at my best when I’m lugging around a 4-lb binder with the complete information for the trip everywhere I go and counting children constantly…).
However, mixed into the cards that had such powerful words that they brought me to tears, I had some truly hilarious cards from some of the kids, too:
“Dear Cassie: You are a great, awesome leader. And I love your husband.”
“Cassie, You’re a great leader and you’re really good at not getting mad when bad things happen.”
“Cassie is an interesting, cool young lady who is caring, fun, and loving and can have fun… at times.”
“Dear Cassie–remember to breath.”
Oh, the truthfulness of kids.
In all honesty, this was a difficult trip for me–for the first time, I wasn’t working with a mission organization and was planning the entire trip from scratch. We went farther away than we usually do on mission trips (with bathrooms stops, we drove nearly 20 hours each way), we camped outside in the middle of summer for 3 nights (during which, more than once, I compared myself to Bear Grylls, the gritty survivor of extreme
situations), and we ended up taking a student to the emergency room for stitches as well as having to repair a vehicle that got backed into a tree and shattered a window. Our food orders were messed up and we had to scramble to refigure how to feed 60 people, the raccoons at the campsite stole our salads and s’mores supplies every night, and I was the dirtiest and stickiest I’ve ever been in my life. I swatted bugs until my arms were sore and still came home with 134 bug bites (yes, I counted–I need to have a good reason when people ask me why I’m scratching like a dog with fleas!)
But, despite all the headaches and stress and responsibility, the Holy Spirit powerfully moved. And the kids and many of the leaders grew tremendously.
I saw so many of them discover themselves and find out that they have talents and skills they never knew they possessed.
I saw kids who seemed like nothing but goofballs connect to Christ in powerful ways.
I watched students who haven’t ever been away from home make deep friendships and have the time of their lives on this trip.
I watched young men and women cry as they realized the depths of God’s love for them.
It was simply amazing.
However, if I have to hear us cycle through a van count one more time, or smell the scent of sunscreen mingled with bug spray once more, I think I might have a mental breakdown…