We flew into the airport full of anticipation and excitement for things to come. Some of us knew each other fairly well and some only had the exposure of seeing one another at the various meetings this past year leading up to right now. But by the end of the trip, we were all connected in a way that cannot be explained.
Giddily we made our way through customs and ultimately outside, crowded with spanish speaking Hondurans. We were quickly the minority.
Our first full day in Honduras started with a visit to AFE. A tour from Pastor Jeonny which included lots of time with the students (te veo en la Universidad!!) and delicious baked goods from their new micro business, a bakery run by two extremely talented professional bakers (read best sweet rolls of your life). In the afternoon we brought food and water to the workers in the trash dump.
Here in America our dumps are private. Private in that we don't let just anyone walk up there and scavenge through our refuse to find recyclables (and food). But there are Hondurans who's only source of any income is to find things of worth in other people's trash and turn them in for a small profit. Some are there by choice and some are there by circumstance, but all of them do not have very much in the way of material goods.
The first time I was ever at the dump was an experience that I can't put into words. This time, however, was even more powerful. I feel like this trip, because I was able to actually interact with the people who worked there, impacted me a lot more.
You are not handing out food to a drone in a factory, there are eyes staring back at you. There is a story there, there is a person who has hopes and dreams and thoughts and opinions about stuff and things and life. That person looking at you, holding out their hand for two tortillas filled with eggs and meat, has a background and a destiny. They were created with a purpose, just like me.
It's pure circumstance that I am not a trash dump worker. I didn't choose to be born in America to an upper middle class family in North Idaho just as much as that person didn't choose to be born in Honduras to a family who has been in the dump since their great grandfather was alive. And once I realized that, something in me kind of clicked.
Why did God put me here? What is my purpose? Those are questions I often ask myself daily, especially in the seemingly relentless grind of my everyday life. I may never fully comprehend what I'm here for, but I know it has to do with helping people.
And that's an interesting thing for me, since I don't really like people that much. I would rather be a wallflower in a busy situation and just slip in and out unnoticed. I can't tell you why I am that way, but just that I've been that way all my life. I like to share my opinion, but mostly only when someone asks me about it. I suppose that's because when someone asks they have to be interested and if they are interested then I am important and I like to be important.
I didn't feel like I needed to be the center of attention this last week though. I was important to others in the way that I nailed together countless boards. I hammered until my biceps hurt. I screwed hinges on doors. I grabbed tools for others. I played jokes on one of the workers who played jokes on me first. I hugged kid after kid after kid and communicated through my severely broken Spanish and their small grasp on the English language.
I was genuinely sad and slightly depressed at the fact that I had to leave Honduras.
The night before we flew back to America we had a pow wow of sorts in the lobby of our hotel. I was not interested in being there. I felt like I had talked all the things I needed to talk and I didn't want to sit down there in that chair and cry again about how much this trip had changed my life. I was kind of over it. I don't like crying and I don't like listening to other people cry and the little introvert inside of me just wanted to crawl in my own little bubble up in my bedroom and have some alone time. But instead I stayed in the lobby and listened to what Adam had to say.
He told us that we do a lot of preparation for the going to a third world country part of our trip, but that we often forget about the going back to the first world country part after it's all over. Everything at home is familiar to us, our house, our car, our door, our chairs and our beds. Our showers, towels, sinks, kitchens, rooms, and curtains. We know these things will be there for us when we get back, but what we often forget to realize is that even though those things are the same, the people we know are the same, we are different.
I am different.
He gave examples from his own life where the things he was warning us about had been evident. He told us not to feel guilty that we had been given more in life, because we didn't choose to be born American. There is nothing we can do about that. He told us that instead of feelings guilty, we should instead feel burdened. Going back home and selling everything you own because you feel guilty for having more stuff than you need isn't going to help anyone, it will just make you miserable. So go home and let your burden fuel you to do more. To help more. To appreciate what you have more.
In this life I have been given so much, and often I am not thankful for it. I take for granted the fact that I can wash my hands in a sink and not need to sanitize them afterwards because the water isn't pure. I take for granted the fact that I can drink that same water and it won't make me sick. I take for granted the ability to flush my toilet paper down the pipes and not worry that it will clog something somewhere and back up everyone's system. I take for granted the simple fact that I even have a toilet.
But the first time I arrived home from Honduras, I did realize those things I was grateful for but I never really felt any additional culture shock. So when Adam was talking about that, even though I was listening, I wasn't really hearing.
Until I got home and I went to a barbecue at my cousin's house for the college age kids at our church. I shouldn't have gone, I felt so out of place. I had just come from such a poor country with people who don't have very many material possessions, but a faith that is so incredibly rich. They know that God is there providing for them and the He is faithful in answering their prayers. They know who it is that they serve.
And there I was surrounded by people, a lot of whom I was unfamiliar with, and I just felt so alienated from them. There was the stereotypical "how was your trip?" question that I was asked only once and the rest of the time was spent listening to others talk about their lives and their concerns and their problems. It was starting to get old fast and I just wanted to go home to my family. I wanted to go snuggle my dogs and talk to people who had just been through the same emotional roller coaster I had been on. People who "got it" without me having to really say anything.
That's when it hit me, that this trip changed me. That I came home a different person and everything that Adam had warned me about I was experiencing. Culture shock. I was not really prepared for it, to be honest.
But I don't want to ever lose sight of how blessed I am. I don't ever want to forget how faithful God is. How much He loves me and how much He provides for me. If those people in that dump can know God cares about them beyond a shadow of a doubt, then I can too.
We are blessed beyond measure. We are loved beyond words. We are cared for beyond our wildest expectations and we have a purpose that is beyond anything we could imagine for ourselves.