Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Vacation Bible School Mission

     Our family just got back from our first mission for any of us ever, this at an outer-island vacation bible school for mostly second-generation immigrants from the South Pacific.
     The forty-five kids served—mostly elementary school age—were warm and well behaved. Our very first full day there, I witnessed a seven-year-old go up to Braden (assigned as a youth leader) and give him a bear hug. Braden was caught off guard but smiled and hugged back with hands against the boy's back. He's not the most huggable guy, so the boy must have had an open generous heart.
     Pene, grouped to participate with middle-schoolers her age, was a big help for the leaders making tie-dye shirts, assisting kids with basket weaving and other projects, and demonstrating games and sports.
     Jaren, also grouped with kids his age, became one of the gang and as the youngest of the mission team that numbered sixteen, got special attention from fellow team members.
     Deanne, assigned to third-graders, mostly helped and participated with generous enthusiasm and led by example.
     I, left unassigned, served as self-appointed roamer, seeking to help those in need and doing what needed to get done 'cause everyone else was too busy. Things I got to do included installing brakes on the bike of the pastor's son, mopping and sweeping muddy/dirty floors, making grocery store runs, driving youth missionaries to and from a beach outing, and singing and dancing along with everyone else during worship.
     It was a fun time had by all and everyone in our family felt it was worth it. Pene and Jaren wished they could stay longer, Jaren getting teary when it came time to say bye to all the other youth missionaries.
     Braden got the most out of it 'cause he stayed the full week versus the two days and two nights for the rest of us. We could have all stayed a week but I felt it would be too much, for when our family experiences prolonged separations sans family alone-time to settle, regroup, and recenter, we tend to suffer sleep deprivation, angst, bad moods, and disrespectful attitudes and behaviors. And staying longer wouldn't have been worth it had it cost family peace, unity, and health. As things turned out, I got an eye infection that immediately upon return required a trip to an ophthalmologist and eye drops for a week—something that I was thankful to do at home versus off-island in the midst of hectic schedules and crowded environments. Also, Braden, upon his return, got very, very, grouchy—no surprise as this happens after all his long away-from-home trips—mostly due sleep deprivation and emotional exhaustion, but also due to fears associated with his growing independence. He did very well on the mission and felt good about it, deservedly so, but he knew he wasn't ready to move out on his own, so to gain reassurance that we were still there for him, he acted up by showing extreme rudeness and disrespect to force us, time and again, to have to discipline him. Ah, the confusing and contradictory life of a teen!—loving, independent, and brimming with confidence one minute, fuming, hissing, and growling over the dumbest thing the next all triggered by Braden's refusal to carry out the simplest of tasks the first time every time. How difficult can it be to wash dishes, get some exercise outside, or stay out of trouble? Based on his reaction, you'd think we'd asked him to remove a kidney.
     Photos from later in the trip showed Braden and fellow missionaries with a kid each on their backs. This to me was the real memorable benefit for us all—bonding with loving souls from less fortunate backgrounds. I doubt whether we directly benefited the life of any individual long-term as no such direct evidence exists, nonetheless because our church has been doing this for five years, perhaps God has used our witness to touch a few hearts. And if God plants seeds, abundance often results.
     Braden shared that at the end of the week, many kids wished the school was longer and asked, “Are you coming back next year?” That appreciation for our ministry and obvious blessings shared—what more could we ask for a first mission trip?

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