Last evening, I returned home from our middle school mission trip to Loveland, Colorado. I think my brain is still recovering. I sure hope it returns to normal capacity soon.
You see, I spent the last 172 hours straight with 30 kids under the age of 15.
Ah. Now you get it.
I slept barely four hours a night, sharing a slowly deflating air mattress with a fellow leader, crammed in a tiny classroom with 15 other girls–three of whom talked in their sleep. I nightly attempted to fall asleep to the sound of boys running down the hall and body slamming into each other.
I ran around and played with little kids at a Boys and Girls Club in Colorado, where I had kids sneezing on me and crawling on my lap to whisper their breathy secrets to me. Naturally, I’m now sick.
I have a hard time hearing anything because my ears have been plugged since we left the Rocky Mountain National Park, where I walked around in a constant state of fear as 30 kids scampered around like Bigfoot running from a camera, flying through the woods and scrambling up and down rocky ledges, craning for a view of the unguarded sheer cliffs.
In the last week, I’ve only had three showers. And, at one point, I joined the desperate kids in bathing in a local lake–in full knowledge that the toddlers a few feet away were probably tinkling in the very water I was washing my hair in.
I’ve basically lived on sandwiches and water–sometimes not even that much, as I had to share my lunch one day with a kid who forgot his.
I’ve helped sweep, mop, wipe down counters, empty trash cans, pick up infinitesimal pieces of paper off the ground, serve food, cut paper, hand things out, pack and repack vans, inflate air mattresses, hand out medicine, balance our budget, plan our routes, hold cameras for kids, juggle phone calls, break up fights, comfort crying kids, direct leaders, discipline kids, and say “because I said so” more times than I can count.
I’ve been alternately sweaty, freezing, sore, ticked off, mischievous, lackadaisical, angry, sobbing, awed, shocked, organized, disorganized, and exhausted.
But, I’ve never seen God so powerfully at work.
While on our trip, we found out that one of our student’s young cousins had been in a car accident and passed away. It was devastating, and beyond heart wrenching to be the one trying to figure out how, when, and where to inform this student about the tragedy that will forever affect his entire family.
It was heartbreaking to inform the entire group, and to see them tearfully embrace each other as they hurt for their friend, but the way that God worked through the kids is something that touched me deeply and will forever impact my own faith.
Seeing these young kids, some of whom have dealt painfully with death already in the last few months, cling to God in their sorrow–praying for each other, sobbing into each other’s shoulders, holding each other, taking care of each other, praising God in the midst of some of the most challenging moments of their lives–it was beyond moving. Every single person in our group cried together.
Without spending the twelve hours I could spend writing about this entire trip–sharing countless inside jokes, insights into the incredible kids on our team, and the gory details of being inside a car with half a dozen teenage boys who just wolfed down Taco Bell–I really just want to give glory where it’s due.
The Holy Spirit moved powerfully in our kids and leaders this week, in undeniable ways.
There’s something special about our group–and I see them now as part of my family. It sounds like such a corny thing to say, like something that would be written in a senior yearbook by the homecoming queen…but I really mean it.
Our church is special, our leaders are incredible, and our youth are even more amazing. Our kids were willing to do anything–including leave halfway through our trip and driving straight through the night to get to St. Louis–to get their friend home for his cousin’s funeral.
Some of the students even volunteered themselves up to fly home with their friend, offering to pay for part of their ticket by themselves. Anything it took to help their friend. It was incredible to see how they absolutely paid no attention to themselves, but only strove to do everything they could for each other.
Part of me really feels like I was blessed more by this trip than anyone else–interacting with so many kids who poured out their hearts to me, who challenged me in my own faith, and who ran to me when they were hurting was quite an experience I’ll never forget.
I’ve never felt so connected to a group, many of whom I’d never had a significant conversation with at the beginning of the trip.
I’ve never interacting with leaders who I was so sure were the perfect leaders for this trip.
And I’ve certainly never, ever been more impressed with any group of kids. Ever.
God is good.