I didn’t want to go. And I felt guilty about it.
In the spring, I was offered the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Antigua with my church. After briefly considering the idea, I consented. I mean, it only made sense. I’d never been on a mission trip outside of the country, so it would be an interesting experience. Plus, since I was graduating from high school in June, my summer would no longer be filled with camps, cheer practices, dance lessons, cross country runs, and selling ads for the yearbook. I needed something to fill the empty summer months.
But as the trip approached, I grew apprehensive and unsure. In fact, I almost dreaded leaving. I wanted to spend time with my parents and three younger sisters before I left for college, I felt like I needed to be at home, completing pre-orientation paperwork and finishing preparations for my dorm room, and I was especially torn about leaving my advisor, Mrs. Quick, to finish the final proofing stage for the 2014-15 yearbook without me. I felt like the list of reasons that I shouldn’t go was just growing longer and longer. However, one more worry loomed even greater in my mind: I barely knew anyone that I was going on the trip with. I’d never been able to attend any other youth group events because a) we live 45 minutes from our church, and b) my busy high school schedule wouldn’t allow for it. Although I attended Sunday school regularly, that didn’t help me much because the majority of the people attending the trip were already college students, and our class is geared toward junior high and high school students. On top of all this, I felt guilty about not wanting to go. I knew how I should feel: excited, eager, expectant. But I just wasn’t.
(Stick with me; my negative attitude doesn’t continue much longer, I promise. God, as always, knew better than me.)
Then July 10th arrived. My bags were packed, and I’d donned my new army green cargo pants, slipped my Bible and Vacation Bible School lessons into my backpack, and double-checked that I’d packed deodorant and watermelon gum (the essentials). Yet, as my dad drove me to meet the group in Nacogdoches that evening, I still didn’t feel ready. When I walked into the church building, hugged Dad goodbye, and prepared to interact with the group, I found myself fervently wishing that the week would just fly by. And then I met everyone.
For whatever inexplicable reason, I had honestly believed that the majority of the group would be too caught up in their existing friendships to try to form a relationship with me. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. Everyone was (as I should’ve known they would be) welcoming and friendly and interested in getting to know me. With each shared laugh, conversation, and group selfie, the convoluted knot of tension that I had wound up within myself began to loosen.
The rest of that night was a blur. We spent about an hour packing extra suitcases full of supplies for the Antiguan men, women, and VBS children. The church gym was a chaotic jumble of all items from silly straws, to shampoos, to spaghetti sauces being haphazardly shoved into bags, which were then heaved to a scale and weighed with the hopes of hitting 50 pounds on the first try. (For anyone that hasn’t flown before, there is a nasty charge for any checked baggage that exceeds 50 pounds-it’s awful.) After that chore, we loaded the bus and headed for the Shreveport airport, where we spent the most comfortable night of our lives on the airport floor. Before I knew it, we were up at 4:30 a.m. for our 5:30 flight, loading the plane, in the air, and on our way to Antigua and the start of a week full of God showing me just why He meant for me to be on this trip.
I realize that this hasn’t been the most entertaining post. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the really neat stuff soon, like meeting the Antiguan church family, interacting with the kids at VBS, and climbing up a mountain (slight exaggeration) with bare feet. I just really felt that my initial apprehension about the trip needed to be mentioned in order for you to have a greater understanding of how much I was impacted by my week in Antigua. Also, you have to give credit where credit is due, and God definitely knew how to use this to show me that I need to focus more on continually trusting in His plan and better judgment. Stay tuned to read how I dealt with questions about why my nose is so pointy, formed some solid friendships, courageously tried to eat a genip after being warned that it had the texture of a “snotball,” and stressed about, then learned from leading a Bible study for 10-12 year olds.