Image is used with permission from Trash Mountain Project.
This originally appeared as a weekly devo on whillschurch.org.
“Are you excited about your trip?”
I can be a slow talker at times but I’m pretty sure this pause was longer than normal. There were 4 of us in the room. Two of us were headed to the Philippines in 11 days. I looked over at my friend who I was going with praying that he would answer first.
He was looking at me.
Probably praying the same thing.
The other two guys were now wondering what had they asked that sent the both of us into shut down mode.
Uh…not sure if that is exactly the word I would use. How do you describe the feeling that is one part amped, one part dread, one part anxious, and one part anticipatory?
I expect to be overwhelmed which I’m not looking forward to at all. I expect to cry like a little baby at least twice. Who are we kidding…probably more. Not really excited about that either. I expect to laugh so hard my sides hurt as well. Why? Because the guys we are traveling with are funny. And completely capable of laughing at themselves and others. So I am excited about that.
I expect to be completely humbled at how shallow my faith is compared to these pastors who live among the neglected and forgotten. I expect to help them as well. I expect to learn something that will make me a better leader, person, and communicator. I expect to be completely exhausted and spent when I get back.
So back to the original question. Am I excited about all of this?
It’s not that simple. I’ve been around poverty before. From inner city Denver to the trash dumps outside Reynosa, Mexico to the favelas in southern Brazil – this isn’t going to be a completely new experience for me.
But it will be a completely new experience for me.
Warning: Raw, uncomfortable truth ahead.
When you take a trip and you are the leader, there is a level of separation that exists between you and the experiences on that trip. Call it the “Holy Buffer” if you will. This buffer allows you to experience the trip and all the overwhelming things that happen to a degree that still allows you to do your job. Stuff like moving your group safely from one event to another, getting them fed, keeping track of them and their stuff, dealing with changes in schedules, dealing with lost items, hungry kids, lost bus drivers, injuries or stomach bugs, homesickness, and pushing the group further than they think they can go without breaking their spirit. There are lots of things that go on inside a mission trip that the leader deals with to make sure the rest of the crew has an awesome time.
This isn’t a bad thing. Not entirely. It’s a reality. It helps others process what they are experiencing. The buffer is permeable. So it’s not like the leader is completely insulated from these experiences. He (or she) isn’t leading the trip in a vacuum. They do experience those ‘moments’ but there is also the reality that there is “a next thing” coming. So it does buffer or lessen the intensity of the moment at times.
I will have no buffer on this trip. I’d be less than honest if I told you I was completely comfortable with that.
Nobody likes to be undressed spiritually and exposed. I’m no different and that’s what I’m sort of expecting on this trip. That’s not an unknown experience for me and that might be part of the dread – it’s not an unknown.
Here’s a perspective for you – I’m writing this blog on a MacBook Pro with my iPhone next to me. I’ve got nice headphones in my ears wearing clean, nice clothes that I’ve had less than 2 years. I’m waiting on a FedEx package that has the Ragamuffin movie in it so I can run it to Regal cinema for the two movie showings on Sunday afternoon. In 11 days I will be on a trash mountain sit outside Manilla where people live in cardboard huts smaller than the size of my walk-in closet with no electricity or plumbing.
So I’ve got this sense of Holy Dread – that’s what I’m calling it anyway. If I go through with it, allow God to have the last word – it will be holy. It will be GOOD – not necessarily pleasant. It will be TRUE – not necessarily comfortable.
The discipline is to keep choosing that path and not the comfortable that keeps calling my name.