To be honest, I've had a hard time readjusting to being home. Aside from just being really, really tired, I just don't feel "right". It was a good trip and yet I don't feel any excitement about it. I can't think of a bad thing that happened and there were many, many good times. Lots of touching moments and lots of laughter ... and yet .... the joy seems to be missing.
I was tired, emotionally tired anyway, before I even started planning this trip. I just didn't feel up to it. Last year was a great year. We did some really great things and when it was over I felt like it was our best year yet. But that changed pretty quickly. There were two team members who were not happy and unfortunately chose to handle their issues in a way that was ungodly to say the least. Dealing with that just took away all of the joy of an otherwise wonderful trip. I don't think I've recovered that joy yet.
I've always heard that its the enemy's job to steal your joy. I was never really sure what that meant. Actually I'm still not sure. If its to discourage me, well ... I don't do this for the joy it gives me. At times it does bring me joy, but there are other time it does not. That's not why I do it.
I don't do it for the happiness either. At times it does bring me happiness but there are other times it most certainly does not. It doesn't matter. I don't do it to be happy.
And I don't do it to be praised or to feel good about myself. Occasionally those things happen but just as often I feel like a failure and just as often someone has a complaint. That's OK. I don't do it for that reason either.
Neither do I do it for the kids. I love the kids out there. No question about it, they are worth all of the work and hassle. But if we didn't put in the work and hassle, someone else would. That's not why I do it.
I do it simply because its where God has me at this point and time. No other reason than that.
So ... about the trip ....
There were three things that stood out.
1. God's provision. You can read stories about that on our Pine Ridge Mission blog. If you're in need of a faith builder I can think of no better thing than a mission trip. Its a way to see God move up close and personal ... at just the right moment.
2. The relationships we've built. I remember well when we started these trips 7 years ago. There were some teens back then that I was sure hated us. They were tough. Really tough. It never even occurred to me that they must like us a little bit or they wouldn't come. So it is really cool now to have those teens who are now no longer teens but young adults with babies of their own, make an effort to come and visit us where we're out there. Even one of the boys who still comes each year but is very standoffish asked why we only stay a week. Now when we go to the PowWow there, its almost like coming home because we know so many of the people there. I guess Hammer said it best. When I picked him up for VBS he ran to the van, climbed in and gave me a big hug then made his way to the back of the van. One of the little girls said something to him (I couldn't make out what) but his response was "she knows me". And he said it with such pride.
It really is my home away from home and the people there really are my extended family.
Which is why the 3rd thing was so special to me. During the week some of the kids told me that one of the little girls who I'm particularly close to was going to receive her Indian name in a naming ceremony at the PowWow. I asked if that was something we could see or if it was a private thing. They weren't sure. But on Friday evening at the PowWow we got to witness the naming ceremony for not just one, but several of "our kids". These are kids that we've watched grow up. Most of them have known us their whole lives. To see them at such an important time in their lives partaking in one of the ceremonies of their culture was simply the most rewarding thing I've been a part of out there. And when it was over and we were leaving, the missionary came running up to our van and gave me a gift of two beautifully made pillows - a gift from one of the families that they gave as part of the ceremony. I don't even know what to say about that.
Shelly and me ( I LOVE this lady. I don't know how she does all she does. She's my hero!)