I realized the other day that I went on my first mission trip ten years ago! Wow, I can't believe it's been that long! I was a mere 15 years old when I traveled to Belize with part of my youth group. Even though it was forever ago, I still remember the sweet faces of the children we met there. I was changed that week. I learned so much and grew so close to the Lord. Today I dug out the journal I brought with me, and read through the entire week-long account. It brought back so many memories! I wish I could go back! i can't believe that all the little children are now the age that I was when I went. Wow, time flies.
Today I thought I'd share a little bit of my experience, straight from the pages of my journal :-) So I guess today you are going to hear from 15-year-old Jessica ;-)
We were in Belize, Central America for nine days. While there, we stayed at YWAM (basically some cabins in the rain forest. Ha!). We spent most of our time at the King's Children Home where we led a Bible School, spent a lot of time with the kids, made some repairs, painted, and tiled the kitchen floor. What a special week!
"July 20, 2000
I am on the plane on the way home right now, but I thought I'd write a little about yesterday and today.
I felt a lot better yesterday [Sidenote: I had just recovered from a pretty scary bout of heat exhaustion earlier that week] so I decided I could go with everyone on our "fun day." We were going to go to the zoo, out to eat, and swimming at The Blue Hole, and then shopping.
Stanley drove us to the zoo first. It looked like it was going to rain. But there were some really cool and cute animals at the zoo. I even saw an ocelot (I have an obsession with them!) But halfway through the tour of the zoo, it just started pouring. But we kept on going anyway. By the time we went back to the bus, we were all soaked from head to toe! I was freezing! So I wrapped myself up in my towel. We decided not to go swimming in The Blue Hole because of the weather. So we went to a hotel to eat next, instead.
We got there and they said we couldn't swim at the hotel either. So we changed into our bathing suits anyways, so they would dry all of our wet clothes. We felt pretty weird eating in our bathing suits!
I got a cheeseburger and fries. But the cheeseburger didn't taste very good because Aunt Beth made me crush up an Advil in it [Back then I was a big wuss and couldn't swallow pills! lol] I still had a small fever from the heat exhaustion.
After we ate, we drove to a little gift shop. I bought some stuff for my grandparents.
Even though things didn't go as we planned on our fun day trip, we still had lots of fun!
Back at YWAM, we got ready for our little "hoe-down" party. We all braided our hair in pig-tails and wore overalls, because we were going to be square dancing.
Supper was good, and no one had to do set up or clean up since it was party night. After we ate, we played a few games and then started square dancing. Aunt Beth was my partner :-) But I quit halfway through because I was feeling exhausted and dizzy since I was not totally better yet from the day before.
After that we all just talked for a long time. I talked to Katie a lot [Katie was a girl who was working at YWAM for the summer, and our group really bonded with her] We all wanted to take her with us when we left!
Okay, now for today, the day we left Belize.
I woke up and got everything packed. Then we all just kinda hung around Katie because we didn't want to leave her, like I said before. But finally we had to. Some of us cried a little bit.
At the Children's Home it was SO HARD to say goodbye. They all gave us a little plaque with their picture, and on the back they all signed it for us. That's when I just lost it. I started to cry so hard. Luckily I stopped long enough to have a few pictures taken with the group, but as soon as they were done, I started to cry again. All the girls were crying so hard. I saw Ezekiel crying and it made me cry even harder. The last thing I did before I left was hug Trinidad. I'm going to miss him so much. [Ezekiel and Trinidad were two of the cute little boys from the children's home who I really bonded with.]
We left for lunch and some of the kids came with us. Lunch was pretty good. I got a cheeseburger and fries again.
Next we went to the airport. When we got on the plane, I was able to move my seat and sit with Sarah and Lyndsay. As the plane took off, I saw everyone waving with Stanley on the balcony of the airport. Of course the three of us started crying all over again. It's so sad to think that I'll never see them again after I have fallen so in love with them all!
Well, the rest of the plane ride was good. Lyndsay, Sarah and I talked almost the whole way to Dallas about the kids.
At the airport in Dallas I was sooo happy to be back in the U.S! Now I'm on the next plane on the way to Cleveland. I can't wait to get there! I miss everyone at home so much."
Aww, reading those words brings back so many memories! What a special time that was. A time of serving and loving the kids, but also a time of growing in the Lord and in my relationships with all the people from my church who went on the trip with me. We were all on almost a high for the first few weeks when we got back, and we felt so bonded to one another. I was an awkward teenager, and I will forever remember this trip as the first time I felt really, totally accepted by a group of friends. I feel like the summer of 2000 changed me forever, and I can't believe it's been ten years already! It has been fun to look back a little bit today, and I hope to be able to go on another international mission trip someday! It is an experience not matched by any other, and I think everyone should try it at least once!
[P.S...the news I shared about yesterday will have to wait a little longer! Sorry! Haha...hopefully tomorrow!]